The Scottish Government has launched a six-week consultation on whether or not Porcine Epidemic Diarrhoea (PED) should be classed as a notifiable disease in Scotland.
Scotland’s rural affairs secretary, Richard Lochhead, said the pig sector was worth £95 million to the Scottish economy last year and that the industry was “understandably concerned” about the virulent strain of PED seen in pig herds in China, North America and, more recently, the Ukraine.
“Although there have been no reports of this strain in the EU, there are other strains circulating within the EU pig herd that could also have potentially serious consequences,” said Mr Lochhead (pictured above).
“The Scottish pig industry has been working, with Scottish Government support, to prevent an incursion of this disease, and to develop robust contingency plans for dealing with an outbreak should one occur.
“I have been asked now to make PED a notifiable disease, and we are now formally consulting on these proposals. I would encourage everyone with an interest in pigs and pig health to respond before the December 24 deadline.”
If it is decided to make the disease notifiable, a change in legislation will be required. This would make it mandatory for any suspected case of PED to be notified to the relevant authority. In practice this would be to Quality Meat Scotland (QMS) through the Scottish Pig Disease Control Centre.
QMS pig specialist, Allan Ward, welcomed the consultation, adding: “It is vital that PED is notifiable on suspicion in order for the industry to act quickly to ensure it is controlled and eliminated.”
The consultation announcement also drew a welcoming comment from the head of SAC consulting veterinary services, Brian Hosie, who said: “We have tracked the spread round the world of this new strain of PED. The heavy mortality in piglets caused by this virus has had a serious impact on animal welfare and the viability of the pig industry in many countries.”
Aberdeenshire pig producer Kevin Gilbert, who chairs NFU Scotland’s pigs committee, added: “The threat posed to the health of Scottish pig herds by PED is substantial and infection would be a devastating blow to the sector. Were it to arrive, then speed is everything in disease control and in reducing the health, welfare and economic impact of a virus like PED.
“We believe that introducing notifiable status for PED would ensure reporting and communication is embedded within our pig sector and, in the worst case scenario of an outbreak, it would trigger an immediate response involving producers, hauliers and processors to shut down the disease spread.”