An emerging pig virus, which has claimed the lives of millions of piglets and raised pork prices nationwide, has spread to Virginia.
Last month, the Virginia Department of Agriculture and Consumer Services confirmed the first case of porcine epidemic diarrhea virus (PEDV) in the state and the U.S. Department of Agriculture announced that U.S. pork producers are now required to report instances of the deadly virus.
PEDV, which has a high mortality rate for piglets, was first recognized in the United States last May and has spread to 30 states.
“The virus affects all pigs, but it has the greatest impact on piglets because they are more likely to suffer from severe diarrhea and dehydration leading to death,” said Dr. Kevin Pelzer, an epidemiologist at the Virginia-Maryland Regional College of Veterinary Medicine at Virginia Tech.
On April 18, USDA announced that it is now requiring pork producers to report cases of the virus and tracking the movement of pigs, vehicles, and equipment leaving affected premises. According to Pelzer, pork producers can help prevent the spread of the virus by following strict biosecurity and good sanitation procedures on their farms. The highly contagious virus spreads through the fecal-oral route when pigs come into contact with other infected pigs or contaminated objects, such as boots or tires, from a farm with infected pigs.
“Pork producers should limit their movement on and off the farm and limit the number of people that come to their farm,” said Pelzer, who is a professor of production management medicine in the Department of Large Animal Clinical Sciences. “Ideally, when visitors come to your farm with a vehicle, you should meet them just outside your property so their possibly contaminated vehicle never enters your farm. If a vehicle such as a feed truck needs to enter the farm, tires should be disinfected prior to entry.”
Although the virus cannot spread from pigs to humans and is not a food safety concern, it has taken a toll on the pork supply and, as a result, consumers are seeing pork prices that are approximately 10 percent higher than before the virus hit the U.S. It takes about five months for a hog to reach market weight.
The national outbreak has reduced the number of pigs being raised over the last several months and, therefore, decreased the number of pigs that will go or are going to market.
“Because the virus is new in this country, the swine population has no immunity to it,” Pelzer said. “Currently, there are no vaccines for PEDV in the United States. Although PEDV vaccines exist in China, we know that there are multiple U.S. strains of the virus and are unsure whether the Chinese vaccines would work against these strains.”