Home > Deadly virus claims thousands of pigs in the US

Deadly virus claims thousands of pigs in the US

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A virus that has claimed the lives of thousands of pigs across North America has Australian pork producers concerned for their livestock and has reinforced the importance of adhering to biosecurity regulations.

The virus known as Porcine Epidemic Diarrhoea (PED) was first detected in April 2013 in the US, with a few cases now being reported in Canada. PED causes severe diarrhoea which leads to extreme dehydration in the pigs, leading to death.

Professor Glen Browning from Melbourne University’s school of veterinary science said that young piglets were the most vulnerable.

“The original strains seem to particularly mainly affect older pigs, grower pigs, but these newer strains seem to be much more virulent for younger pigs and that's why we're seeing much more severe effects because younger pigs are much more likely to die of diarrhoea than older pigs," Browning told ABC News.

Darryl D’Souza, general manager of research and innovation at Australian Pork Limited said that the virus has wreaked havoc in the United States.

"Most farms in the US are reporting somewhere from 80 to 100 per cent mortality,” said D’Souza. “We're hearing from quite large farmers in the US who haven't sold a piglet. These are breeders who sell their piglets to contract growers, they haven't sold piglets for five, six or seven weeks. So it's extremely devastating."

It is believed that the virus originated in China from an outbreak identified in 2010, however producers are at a loss as to how it reached the United States.

D’Souza says that the virus is not likely to present itself as a food safety issue in humans and is most likely to remain that of an animal health issue. He also says that to his knowledge, live pigs have not been imported from China into the US, therefore the virus must have come through other means.

"That's the worrying thing for us, because we, like the US and every other country, do import raw materials to make feed additives that go into our pigs' diets."

D’Souza says that the virus is a stern reminder to Australian farmers of the importance of adhering to biosecurity regulations.

"It's essentially working with the whole supply chain to make sure that they are fully aware of the risks and to reaffirm if you like the biosecurity protocols that need to be implemented," D'souza said.

"It's looking at making sure we are doing the absolute basics, but doing it well, and additionally being on the lookout for potential symptoms in pigs, that have shown signs with PED in the US."

'If we have a breakout, we are a small industry, and I think it'd be the death nail of us."

photo credit: johnmuk via photopin cc

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