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PED findings in Europe must be taken seriously

Effective biosecurity protocols on all pig farms combined with efficient disinfection of transport vehicles on wash sites are crucial in preventing the introduction of PED to Denmark.

An EFSA report published in November 2014 describes findings of PED virus in Germany and Italy that resembles the types observed in the Americas. Symptoms seen in Asian and American pig herds include severe diarrhoea and vomiting; in severe cases, 80-100% of the newborn piglets die within the first few weeks of the introduction of the disease.

Reliable information from the Ukraine reports of a highly aggressive PED variant that has spread since summer 2014. The most recent large outbreak was reportedly seen in December 2014 in Kalita located in the north west of the Ukraine close to the Polish border.

The extent to which PED has spread across Europe is unclear as PED is not a reportable disease. The Pig Research Centre (PRC) has been informed by several European pig organisations, universities, laboratories etc that a mild variant of PED is widely spread in the entire southern part of Germany, across Austria, and in some cases in northern Italy, the Netherlands, Belgium and northern France via pigs imported from Belgium.

This is information obtained by PRC – the actual spread remains unknown.

PED is not yet a reportable disease in the EU; as the only member state, France introduced this requirement in May 2014, and authorities in several countries are currently considering the possibilities. However, the extent of such a step and whether it will in fact be implemented is unclear. In December 2014, the Irish industry introduced a voluntary ban on import of pigs from mainland Europe wherefore Denmark is currently unable to export breeding stock to Ireland.

Denmark is still PED free. PED virus has not been observed in Danish pigs: in cooperation with the Danish Veterinary and Food Administration and the National Veterinary Institute, PRC conducted a serological analysis of approx. 2,400 blood samples collected at random from Danish sows in the fourth quarter of 2014. All blood samples were PED negative. The situation will be monitored closely in 2015; PRC has agreed with the National Veterinary Institute to analyse approx. 335 blood samples a month collected randomly from Danish sows. 

Contact your vet if you suspect PED in your herd

PED attacks pigs’ gastro-intestinal tract. Piglets 1-2 weeks old are hit the hardest by the virus showing symptom such as diarrhoea, vomiting, depression, fever and increased mortality. The older the pigs become, the less severe the symptoms. Weaned pigs, finishers and sows typically suffer only temporarily from diarrhoea, vomiting, depression and light fever, and death is rare.

Pig producers observing symptoms of PED and increased mortality among young piglets should have their herd vet examine the herd for PED. All Danish pig producers are encouraged to optimise biosecurity protocols as PED is seen in an increasing number of European countries. 

PED transmission

PED virus in intestines and faeces is the primary source of infection as large amounts of virus are found here. Consequently, trading infected pigs poses the largest risk in the transmission of PED. Transport vehicles carrying contaminated faeces pose the second largest risk as virus can survive for months in faeces. The virus may also transmit through objects and humans when hygiene and biosecurity levels are inadequate.

In their report from November 2014, EFSA concluded that PED virus and genetic material from PED virus may be detected in blood plasma, but efficient spray-drying may inactivate the virus. Cross-contamination is also a risk during bleeding and collection of blood and at other points in the process.

The virus may also transmit through feed, but it is unclear whether this is in fact caused by exposure to contaminated faeces. EFSA does not rule out that PED may in rare cases transmit through blood plasma. PRC therefore recommends a gradual stop of the use of blood plasma in 2015. Pig producers wishing to continue using blood plasma must be able to document that the plasma was stored minimum six weeks at max 8% relative air humidity prior to use in pig feed. The use of blood plasma will be incorporated in the DANISH scheme in 2015.

PED virus may also be transmitted via air for short distances, but the impact of this under practical conditions has not been established due to insufficient data. 

Optimized disinfection procedures on wash sites

In December 2014, PRC implemented optimized disinfection procedures for all livestock vehicles returning to Denmark. As of January 2015, staff at the five wash sites is responsible for thoroughly disinfecting the vehicles. Before January 2015, the driver of the vehicles was responsible for this, and the result was far from always satisfactory. This procedure has now been in place for a few months, and the increase in the use of disinfectant indicates that the disinfection levels have improved. The drawback is the delays now occurring on the wash sites, but PRC estimates that under the current conditions the optimized disinfection procedures must be maintained. 

Pig producer’s responsibility

In October 2014, the use of entry rooms was made a statutory requirement on all pig farms, mainly due to the increasing MRSA problems on Danish pig farms. However, consistent use of entry rooms is also essential to contain PED as humans may carry PED contaminated boots and clothes.

The industry’s rules on biosecurity and quarantine for humans therefore remain as relevant as ever.

Pig producers exporting pigs must ALWAYS ensure that the transport vehicle has a green or red wash certificate. The latter is subject to a 48-hour quarantine period from wash and disinfection until entering a Danish pig farm. Check this each and every time at or use the app “Tjekvogn” for android phones.

PED - historic development

PED was first reported in England in 1970s from where it spread to most of mainland Europe. The original type of the virus resulted in mortality rates of 10-20% among newborn piglets. In the last decade, this variant was sporadically observed in Spain and Italy.

In 1990s, PED emerged to Asia where a range of aggressive variants developed. These variants cause 80-100% of piglets aged 1-10 days to die from diarrhoea and vomiting within the first two weeks from the virus is introduced in the sow unit.

Today, PED is widely spread in the Asian pig production industry, and there are no effective vaccines.

The disease is contained by exposing gilts and sows to faeces from diarrhoea pigs before farrowing, but it nevertheless remains one of the most significant production diseases in Asia.

PED was never detected in Denmark or the rest of Scandinavia.

Updated: 17.03.2015