The Caribbean Animal Health Network (CaribVET) is encouraging stakeholders in the regional pork industry to take every precaution to prevent the introduction of the viral disease, Porcine Epidemic Diarrhea (PED).
PED has been present in both Europe and Asia for some time but since the first case was identified in the United States in May last year, the disease has spread rapidly to 23 states, across the border into Canada and was recently confirmed in Colombia and the Dominican Republic.
“PED causes severe diarrhea, vomiting and loss of appetite in pigs of all ages and mortality rates of up to 100 per cent in piglets under a week old. PED only affects pigs and cannot be spread to other animals or to humans,” a release from CaribVET today said.
“Pork from pigs that have recovered from PED is safe to eat and there is no risk to food safety. However, an outbreak of PED has the potential to cause severe economic damage to the pork industry due to the death of piglets,” it added.
Once infected, a sick animal will begin to show signs of the disease within as little as 22 to 36 hours. The PED virus is spread through fecal matter, on the surface of contaminated objects and materials and via birds and people moving within or between farms.
Although PED presents signs which are very similar to transmissible gastroenteritis (TGE) caused by the TGE virus, the two viruses are not related. Diagnosis of PED has to be conducted via laboratory testing of samples taken from dead pigs. Animals which have been exposed to or vaccinated against TGE virus are not protected against the PED virus and a vaccine against this disease is still being developed and tested.
The best protection against the disease is to increase vigilance and implement preventative biosecurity measures on all pig farms. Farmers are being asked to take particular care to clean and disinfect vehicles entering the farm. Clothing, boots and equipment should not be moved between herds. Extra care must be taken when introducing new animals into the herd. If farmers detect any signs of PED in their pigs, they should report it immediately to their local Ministries of Agriculture or veterinary officer.
CaribVET, working in tandem with national animal health authorities in the region, and with the support of international agencies like the Food and Agriculture Organization (FAO) and World Organization for Animal Health (OIE), is stepping up its efforts to educate stakeholders and to put a set of protocols in place for the protection of the regional pork industry against this serious threat.