A potentially devastating piglet disease could have reached Australia for the first time, authorities said today.
The Department of Agriculture is investigating two suspected cases of the post-weaning multisystemic wasting syndrome (PMWS) in South Australia and NSW.
Australia is one of the few countries to have been spared the disease, but a Federal Court ruling last month found quarantine authorities had ignored warnings that pork imports would effectively guarantee the disease would gain a foothold here.
PMWS kills millions of piglets globally each year.
The court issued orders banning any more import permits under the existing risk analysis scheme, and blocked one company's permit to import.
Pig farmers welcomed the Federal Court ruling and have moved to stop 83 existing importers from continuing to bring pork to Australia.
The disease usually hits pigs aged between six to eight weeks. They lose weight rapidly, take on a runted and jaundiced appearance, and develop high fevers.
It is not thought to be particularly contagious, but has a high fatality rate.
A spokesman for the department said the investigation into two suspected cases of the disease should be completed by early next week.
The disease was not a threat to the public, the department said.
"This type of investigation is part of the normal response by government to a suspicious disease and is not out of the ordinary," Australian Chief Veterinary Officer Dr Gardner Murray said.
The body representing pork producers, Australian Pork Limited, welcomed the investigation, but said it could not comment any further.