Progress on National Aujeszky's disease control and eradication programme

IRELAND - Mr Liam Aylward TD, Minister of State at the Department of Agriculture and Food, today indicated that significant progress is being made in advancing the National Aujeszky’s Disease Control and Eradication Programme.
calendar icon 30 April 2003
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The objective of this programme is to eliminate Aujeszky’s disease from the national pig herd.

Minister Aylward pointed out that progress on the Programme was made possible by the National Pig Identification and Tracing System introduced in mid-2002. Testing for Aujeszky’s Disease was initiated in six phases, commencing in the north of the country and moving southwards. To date over 44,000 blood samples have been analysed from over 760 herds, drawn from 26 counties. When the Programme is completed, it will have encompassed more than 1,200 pig herds. The bulk of testing in the earlier phases has now been completed and testing has commenced in the final phase, Co Cork. To date a total of 21 herds have been found positive for the disease and full control plans, involving vaccination and comprehensive biosecurity measures, are being implemented for those herds.

“This Programme is important, both in terms of tackling a disease within the national pig herd and of protecting our access to certain export markets,“ the Minister said. “It is also a perfect example of how we are using an animal identification and traceability system, as a basis for carrying out activities which are of benefit to an entire sector. It is particularly noteworthy that the pig sector has agreed with the Department on the importance of herd owners having access to the national database for informed decision-making on pig trading and this aspect is very valuable in terms of the control and eradication of Aujeszky’s disease. I would like to see certain aspects of this approach being extended to other diseases and indeed to other sectors in the future to be used by farmers to assist in their decision-making as regards enhancing the breeding potential of their herds and flocks, protecting against diseases and better managing their entire livestock operations to their own benefit.“

Ireland has an exportable surplus of pigmeat in the region of 60% of production. It is therefore of major importance to the economy that Ireland has continued access to the most demanding international markets. Under EU legislation access to markets in Member States and regions which are either free of Aujeszky’s disease or have Aujeszky’s disease control programmes in place is restricted to those countries which themselves are free of the disease or have eradication and control programmes in place. In addition a number of third countries demand certification on Aujeszky’s freedom. The introduction of the National Aujeszky’s Control and Eradication Programme will enable Ireland to maintain access to key markets for live pigs.

The Minister paid tribute to the commitment shown by herd owners and their representative bodies and by veterinary practitioners. The Minister urged all herd owners whose pigs had yet to be tested to make the necessary arrangements to test their herds as early as possible so that the Programme can be concluded speedily. “Once the Programme is completed we will have a full picture of Ireland’s Aujeszky’s disease situation and I will comment further at that time on the picture which emerges and on further phases of the Programme,“ the Minister said.


  1. Aujeszky’s Disease is a disease of pigs and does not affect consumers. It can cause serious production and welfare problems in herds and it can also have trade implications. Clinical signs of the disease vary depending on the age of the pigs. In neo-natal pigs the incubation period is 2-4 days and signs of central nervous system disease such as shivering, inco-ordination and hind leg weakness, are seen. Losses may reach 100% in piglets less than seven days old. In weaned pigs respiratory disease is the predominant problem. Sneezing, coughing and laboured breathing is accompanied by fever and weight loss. Signs in gilts and sows include abortion, stillbirth and mummified foetuses in addition to the respiratory and febrile signs seen in growing and finishing pigs.

  2. The National Pig Identification and Tracing System (NPITS) encompasses identification of every pig herd in the country and a requirement for advance notification of all pig movements into, within and from the country to a centralised, national, electronic database on which is held data on all pig herds. This database, which is managed by South Western Services, also captures instantaneously telephone notifications of pig movements. Its many features include reconciliation of details as between numbers of pigs consigned/received, etc.

  3. Under the Aujeszky’s Disease Programme, all pig herds are being tested for the disease. On foot of the test result each herd is given a disease status which is entered onto the NPITS database. Once the Programme is completed, each herd will have an Aujeszky’s disease status and will be able to trade by reference to the status of others and the requirements of customers. Sampling/testing on a basis to be determined will be continued to consolidate the position established by the initial Programme and to deal with any residual disease.

  4. Herd owners whose herds are negative for Aujeszky’s disease can protect this status by purchasing pigs only from other herds which have also tested negative. The system in place allows a herd owner to directly check the disease status of any other herd on the NPITS database. This enables them to make fully informed decisions on purchasing thereby protecting their herds. While primary responsibility for protecting the disease status of herds must rest with the individual herd owner, the Department will where possible alert herd owners to intended movements, notified to the central database through NPITS, which would potentially spread disease (e.g. from a ‘positive’ status herd to a ‘negative’ status herd). Ultimately it will be unlawful to move pigs from herds of lower AD status into higher status herds.

  5. The testing phases of the Programme are as follows:

    Phase Counties Date of issue of notification to herd owners to arrange test
    1. Donegal, Sligo, Leitrim, Mayo 25th October ‘02
    2. Roscommon, Longford, Cavan, Monaghan, Louth 8th January ‘03
    3. Meath, Westmeath, Galway, Dublin, Kildare, Offaly 22nd January ‘03
    4. Wicklow, Carlow, Laois, Kilkenny, Wexford, Waterford 5th February ‘03
    5. Clare, Kerry, Limerick, Tipperary 12th March ‘03
    6. Cork 26th March ‘03

  6. Sampling is carried out by the herd owner’s private veterinary practitioner and samples are tested at either the Department’s Central Veterinary Research Laboratory or the Irish Equine Centre Laboratory.

For more information on Aujeszky’s disease simply Click Here

Source: Department of Agriculture and Food Government of Ireland - 30th April 2003

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