Porcine Epidemic Diarrhoea (PED) will become a notifiable disease

East Anglian pigs.

East Anglian pigs. - Credit: Nick Butcher

A potential infection threat to the region's pig herds will be re-classified as a 'lightweight notifiable' disease in a bid to identify outbreaks quickly and prevent them spreading.

Porcine Epidemic Diarrhoea (PED) will become a notifiable disease in England from Friday, meaning pig-keepers and vets will be legally required to inform the Animal and Plant Health Agency (APHA) of any suspicion of the disease.

Under the new legislation, APHA will be permitted to report suspect and confirmed cases to AHDB Pork – the agreed 'appropriate organisation' – which will then provide biosecurity guidance to the pig unit concerned. It will also carry out tracings and alert at-risk contacts.

The measures have been introduced at the request of industry bodies including the National Pig Association (NPA), which is calling the new measure 'lightweight' notifiable because, unlike with other notifiable diseases, there will be no statutory movement controls, no compulsory slaughter and no blocks on exports.

NPA chief executive Dr Zoe Davies said: 'The industry's method of tackling the disease and ensuring it doesn't spread will be to introduce a raft of biosecurity measures. It worked in Canada and we are confident it will work here — as long as it is identified at the earliest possible stage.'

PED, which is harmless to humans, is most serious in new-born suckling piglets where it can cause high levels of mortality. In older pigs, it often leads to loss of production.

The main source of PED is infected faeces. It can be spread by pigs, people, vehicles, equipment, contaminated bedding, feed and waste, and animal vectors, including rodents, birds, foxes, flies, pets and other farm livestock.