Farmers have said they are deeply concerned about the possible spread of a virulent pig disease to the UK.

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Specialists and industry experts have warned that should porcine epidemic diarrhoea virus (PEDv) reach these shores, it would cause unprecedented damage to pig populations.

Jonathan Green, owner of Piggy Green Ltd, based at Timworth Hall, Timworth, Bury St Edmunds, said the disease would spread quickly through the region’s outdoor pig units.

He added: “The thing about it is that if it came into this country, it would go from one end to the other in days. You would lose a huge amount of production, almost instantly, so it would be a very traumatic disease. The mortality rate is very high and there is no cure at the moment, so you have to let it go through your pigs and develop their own resistance. I am very, very concerned about it.”

Although PEDv is harmless to humans, there have been reports that up to 100 per cent of piglets on affected farms in the US after spreading from China.

Mr Green, who has 3,000 sows and their progeny on his farm, said: “It’s spreading in America and it seems that there’s no stopping it. It’s a very virulent disease and it will spread extremely quickly in this county, especially on our outdoor pig units.”

The National Pig Association (NPA) said they were on ‘red alert’ and said until more was known about the disease the industry was focusing on spray-dried porcine plasma (SDPP) - a specialist feed ingredient - as a possible cause.

NPA chairman Richard Longthorp said, “We are clear that we don’t want to be looking back in a few months, and wish we had been more cautious. We are all agreed in the pig sector that we should close off every avenue of risk and potential risk for the time being.”

Derek Armstrong, a veterinarian for pig levy representatives BPEX, said: “The evidence from the States is that it is so outstandingly infectious that just one infected pig is all it would take to start an epidemic in this country which could kill as much as ten percent of the national herd.”

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