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Australian Scientists Preparing for Deadly Pig Virus

12 June 2014

AUSTRALIA - Australian veterinary scientists are preparing for a potential outbreak of the deadly Porcine Epidemic Diarrhoea (PED) virus which has killed millions of pigs in America and devastated pork industries.

Since being detected in the United States in April last year, the virus has spread to 23 US states and caused the deaths of more than five million piglets.

There have also been outbreaks reported in Mexico and Canada.

Just this week, the United States Department of Agriculture (USDA) issued a federal order, requiring pig producers to notify the department of infections.

The department also announced extra funds to research the disease and develop a vaccine and boost bio-security measures.

ABC reports that a strain of the virus, taken from America, is being studied by scientists at the CSIRO’s Australian Animal Health Laboratory (AAHL) in Geelong.

CSIRO veterinary investigation leader Dr James Watson says Australian researchers have studied the strain to develop diagnostic tests which will ensure a quick response to any potential outbreak of the disease here.

"The first thing that we’ve done, seeing what’s happened in the US, is to make sure that we have tests available that allow us to very rapidly detect the virus, so that if we are asked to exclude the virus in a disease situation we can do that as rapidly as possible, or, in the unfortunate circumstance where it arrives, to allow control measures to be introduced as soon as possible,” Dr Watson said.

“In addition to that, we are working on understanding the virus further and developing other techniques that would then, if it were present, allow us to undertake more in depth investigations to understand what’s going on and to support control measures.”

Dr Watson says, despite Australia’s strict biosecurity regimes, there are concerns the PED virus could make it here.

“In many ways we have similar exposure risk profile to the US for introduction of the virus … so it’s something of considerable concern.”

He says if suspected cases of the disease present in piglets in Australia, the animal health laboratory is well-placed to detect it quickly.

"If something arises out in the field and samples are sent here, we can provide an initial result within about six hours, 24/7, to hopefully provide reassurance to the field teams.

"Having seen what’s happened in the US, we’ve made sure we’ve got that in place."

ThePigSite News Desk

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