Since it was first identified in April 2013, Porcine Epidemic Diarrhea virus (PEDv) has killed an average of 100,000 piglets and young hogs each week according to estimates made by The New York Times.
Though the number positive cases of the fast-spreading virus have slowed as expected as summer temperatures soar, PEDv continues to wreak havoc on the industry, employee morale and consumer prices as veterinarians scramble for answers.
“I’ve been a vet since 1981, and there is no precedent for this,” Paul Sundberg, vice president for science and technology at the National Pork Board, explained to The New York Times. “It is devastatingly virulent.”
More than 14 months after PEDv showed up in U.S. herds, it has killed an estimated 8 million pigs and could kill another 2.5 million between July 2014 and July 2015. There is still no official tally of the number of pig deaths; however, the USDA announced in June at the World Pork Expo mandatory PEDv reporting, which means cases must be officially registered. Read, “U.S. orders farmers to report PEDv cases.”
Millions of dollars in funding have been dedicated to researching PEDv, but veterinarians and scientists are still unsure how PEDv first came into the country and how it spreads. Some speculate it has been spread with the help of feral hogs or even Canadian Geese.
The New York Times reports that environmentalists are concerned burying “so many” carcasses could have negative impacts on groundwater. WaterKeeper Alliance petitioned the North Carolina Department of Agriculture and Consumer Services earlier this year for a mass disposal plan and a state of emergency.
Steven W. Troxler, North Carolina’s agricultural commissioner, declined to seek an emergency declaration and responded in a letter to the organization that he believes the existing disposal systems are up to the challenge.
“We are not aware of any published scientific data that indicates any groundwater contamination as a result of PEDv,” Toxler wrote in the letter.
PEDv has also influenced pork producers across the country. In a PBS report here, bacon costs are 15 percent higher than in 2013. Pork chops aren’t far behind, with costs 13 percent higher than last year.
In May, the National Pork Producers Council told National Geographic pork producers could rise by 10 to 15 percent. Chris Hurt, a professor of agricultural economics at Purdue University in West Lafayette, Indiana, projects a more modest increase of 7 percent. Click here for more.