UK Pig Association to Play Leading Role in PED Contingency Planning

UK - The National Pig Association (NPA) has been asked to play two lead roles in national emerging-disease planning, writes Digby Scott, as the country draws up contingency plans for PED and other emerging diseases.
calendar icon 12 June 2014
clock icon 5 minute read

The aim of the plan is to stop virulent viruses such as porcine epidemic diarrhoea virus (PEDv) and American porcine reproductive and respiratory disease virus (PRRSv) from entering the country – and to quickly identify and contain them if the worst happens.

NPA will be asked by the Animal Health and Welfare Council to:

  • take the lead in assessing, developing and implementing improved wholechain biosecurity standards, and
  • help communicate national emerging-diseases contingency planning to the industry at large.

Meanwhile the recently-reformed AHVLA Pig Expert Group will be asked to take the lead role in horizon scanning, risk assessments and surveillance.

And BPEX is to investigate whether it will be allowed to set up a separate levy-fund to fight PEDv if it arrives in this country – but this process could take months.

Farrowing House Carnage

If PEDv arrives in Britain, the people who will see it first are those who go into the farrowing house on a Monday morning and find all the young pigs dead.

Experience from the early days of PMWS shows that as the weeks go by, some will need counselling or the industry could lose some of its best people.

The problem with PEDv is that it is not a very visual disease – there is just a lot of scouring, followed a day later by mass mortality.

The industry contingency plan will emphasise the need for producers and vets to pick up the signs at the earliest opportunity and for AHVLA to have prompt and reliable diagnostics in place. It has already been in touch with experts at University of Minnesota.

The contingency plan will also put measures in place to help the European Union pig industry share knowledge and risk assessments on emerging diseases.

When China reported four years ago that a new disease had claimed the lives of a million young pigs, the rest of the world failed to recognise the risk of PEDv spreading to other countries – Thailand, Viet Nam, Korea, Japan, Taiwan, the US, Canada and parts of Latin America.

Biosecurity Blindness

NPA is to form a task group to look at supply chain biosecurity, including farms, feed, transport, abattoirs and live imports.

There is an argument that whilst many people could pass an exam on biosecurity, they are failing to adopt best practice at their own place of work.

The problem is that familiarity can breed 'biosecurity blindness'.

For instance, in the US, the third farm to go down with PEDv belonged to a producer who visited his brother's unit, which was already infected, to see what the new disease looked like.

And at a feed mill, grain from a bumper harvest was stored on the ground until collected by a dumper truck, which was driven through the lorry wash-down area.

It is hoped the British pig industry can, like Canada, learn from these mistakes. One veterinary laboratory in Canada has earmarked funds to redesign its reception area so that people walking in with samples from PEDv-infected farms do not come into contact with producers from non-infected farms.

Overcoming biosecurity blindness means being able to identify and implement ways of preventing disease getting anywhere near the pig industry supply chain.

Foot-and-mouth probably comes into this country (and all other countries) with some regularity but it is short-lived as long as it doesn't get near susceptible animals.

So the goal is to keep PEDv out of the country in the first place – but if it does get in to make absolutely certain it doesn't get anywhere near pigs via people, feed or transport.

The worry about imported spray-dried porcine plasma, according to BPEX vet Derek Armstrong, is that even if heat treatment is capable of inactivating the virus, there is no guarantee that a dirty shovel has not been used post-treatment.

Biosecurity and Farm Assurance

It has been suggested by Health and Welfare Council's emerging diseases sub-group that NPA should consider every pig farm having someone with specific biosecurity training, who carries out an annual review of to identify any areas of biosecurity blindness.

Part of NPA's role will be to research whether this can be achieved and whether producers would have an appetite for such a measure being included in farm assurance.

It will be also necessary to revisit biosecurity for trucks and seek ways to overcome what economists call the tragedy of the commons, where the people who are required to invest time and money into truck washing and disinfecting (drivers and abattoirs) are not the people who directly benefit most, i.e. producers.

It has been achieved in some countries. In Belgium, one company has heating elements built into its trucks to allow them to be heated to 75 degrees, including the cabs.

And in Denmark, there are bespoke truck cleaning stations at border posts which must be used by lorries that have delivered young pigs to eastern Europe and elsewhere. Producers are advised not to allow any trucks on the farm unless the driver can produce a cleaning and disinfecting certificate.

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