Swine Virus Will Impact Production, Prices in 2014; Strict Bio-security Essential

PEDV causes intestinal disease in swine of all ages and high mortality in young pigs. (Photo by Ken Chamberlain)

COLUMBUS, Ohio -- Even though it was found for the first time in the U.S. just a year ago in April, porcine epidemic diarrhea virus (PEDv) has caused important losses in swineherds across the country and is expected to impact the availability of pork products and prices in 2014, according to swine experts with Ohio State University’s College of Food, Agricultural, and Environmental Sciences (CFAES).

Despite efforts to combat the disease, PEDv has spread rapidly to 27 states, including Ohio, as of April 2, 2014, according to the American Association of Swine Veterinarians.

“New herds are being infected on a daily basis throughout the country, so it is very likely that we will see infections in populations not previously exposed to the virus the rest of this year,” said Steve Moeller, an Ohio State University Extension swine specialist. OSU Extension is the outreach arm of the college.

A member of the coronavirus family, PEDV causes intestinal disease in swine of all ages and high mortality in young pigs -- especially among pre-weaned pigs, for which mortality is almost 100 percent. The virus is transmitted via contaminated feces.

PEDv has been difficult to identify because its symptoms, which include vomiting, diarrhea, poor appetite, dehydration and depression, are almost identical to those of transmissible gastroenteritis virus (TEGv), another coronavirus that sickens pigs. The only way to tell these two viruses apart is through laboratory testing.

“This virus has proven to be very persistent and difficult to contain,” Moeller said. “Even in swine operations that are very bio-secure, animals are still getting infected.

“Trying to pinpoint how it’s getting moved from farm to farm is still an issue that needs to be resolved. Also, hot summers and cold winters do not seem to be affecting the virus much.”

Still, Moeller said, strict bio-security measures are the best way to prevent transmission among herds and reduce losses at this time, since vaccines are yet to be developed for such a new virus.

“The best recommendation for producers is to clean, clean, clean,” Moeller said. “Facilities need to be as clean as possible, and proper disinfection needs to be done often to prevent the spread, but also to reduce viral loads in affected herds, even if the virus has been present in that operation before.

“We still don’t know enough about immunity protection in previously exposed herds, and it appears that protection may not be long lasting, meaning herds can re-break.”

Moeller added that swine producers need to understand and regulate the flow of traffic (people, supplies, maintenance crews and delivery equipment) in their facilities to minimize the risk of infection.

PEDv does not sicken humans and does not impact the safety of pork products. However, the virus has contributed to a reduction in the number of pigs projected to come to market this year, Moeller said.

“Recent projections indicate that PEDv may have reduced the U.S. market hog supply by more than 5 million pigs in the past six to eight months, coupled with a normal production decline due to seasonal issues with fertility,” he said. “This decline that is likely to continue through the summer.

“Some packers have recently indicated they may not slaughter five days a week in coming weeks and months, when it can be common to operate a six day week. There are less pigs, so prices at the producer level are already showing significant increases, which are likely going to show up in the retail case as well.”

The risk of PEDv spread is also likely to impact swine exhibitions at state and county fairs this year.

“Producers showing animals at fairs need to be very cautions about what they drive, wear and bring back to the farm,” Moeller said. “ I suspect some individuals will not want to take the risk of showing pigs this year. But in this business there’s always a risk, and we can’t simply live in a bubble.”

Fact sheets and other helpful resources about PEDv are available at http://www.pork.org/pedv.


CFAES News Team
For more information, contact: 

Steve Moeller