The incidence of swine influenza in pig herds in the UK and Ireland could be higher than expected if the results of a recent survey are replicated across the national herds in these countries, according to Brian Rice, veterinary adviser at Merial Animal Health.

Routine diagnostic blood testing in these countries indicated most herds tested were positive for swine flu. “More than 70 percent of herds tested in Great Britain had one or more pigs that tested positive, while this figure increased to over 90 percent in Ireland," said Rice. "Historically, and with no vaccine available, the industry has tended to be reactive to swine influenza, managing outbreaks as they arose, but more and more producers are now realizing the benefits of vaccinating against the disease."

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Previous research carried out in 2008–2009 by the Royal Veterinary College and the COSI Consortium across a broader sample of around 17 percent of the English herd showed that nearly six in 10 farms (59 percent) had pigs that were positive for one of the strains of swine influenza. “Many people may be surprised by just how widespread the disease is, but the real question is how they plan to mitigate the potential risks posed by swine influenza to the productivity of their herds,” said Rice.

According to Merial, the optimal route is for producers to investigate their herds' swine influenza status and put in place appropriate preventative measures.