Britain's National Pig Association is asking UK pig farmers to help keep a new strain of porcine epidemic diarrhea virus (PEDV) out of Europe. The virus has been present in Britain in a mild form for more than 40 years, but new strains in China and the United States are wiping out whole generations of newly-born pigs - and there is no effective treatment.

It is essential the new PEDV strains are kept out of Britain, says National Pig Association. It is calling for everyone involved in farming to adopt a number of extra-precautionary measures.

  • Only absolutely essential visitors from overseas should be allowed onto pig farms and they must have entered Britain at least three days before the visit. Only unit clothing and footwear should be worn on the unit.
  • If you are returning from overseas yourself, allow three days before considering yourself "pig-free".
  • Ensure all your staff and colleagues are aware of the risks posed by the new strains of PEDV and that they comply with all biosecurity measures if visiting British pig units.

In addition to its general advice to everyone in British agriculture, the National Pig Association is advising all pig-keepers to contact their veterinarian if they see unusual clinical problems with diarrhea, particularly in piglets.

Producers should also work with their nutritionist, feed supplier and vet to check the provenance of nutritional products used on their farm, and consider whether any might pose an unacceptable risk.

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The association says that as a matter of principle no meat products should ever be allowed onto pig units, because of their potential to introduce serious diseases such as foot-and-mouth disease, classical swine fever, African swine fever, and perhaps the new virulent strains of PEDV.

NPA is asking all to run a critical eye over all their current biosecurity measures and see where they can be improved. It is also urging genetics companies to think carefully before importing live pigs from the States for the time being, regardless of the high level of biosecurity usually attached to such shipments.

If the new acute strains of PEDV spread to Britain they could have an impact every bit as bad as postweaning multisystemic wasting syndrome, which arrived in Britain from mainland Europe about 13 years ago and contributed to a halving of the national herd, only coming under control in recent years, following the introduction of highly effective vaccines.

The current outbreak in the US, which is still spreading, is causing losses of up to 100 percent of affected piglets and has been reported on over 200 units in 13 states since May. The virus from the outbreak in the US is said to be 99.4 percent similar to an outbreak in China which has killed more than 1 million piglets since October 2010.