Training workers on how to
evaluate animals and when to
act is essential to an effective
euthanasia program, says
Michelle Sprague, DVM, AMVC
Management Services, shown
here reviewing procedures
with Dan Weber,
a sow-farm manager for
one of her clients.
Training workers on how to evaluate animals and when to act is essential to an effective euthanasia program, says Michelle Sprague, DVM, AMVC Management Services, shown here reviewing procedures with Dan Weber, a sow-farm manager for one of her clients.

Iowa hog farmers are getting more help in the fight against a deadly piglet virus that has swept through 30 states and killed an estimated eight million piglets since April 2013.

The U.S. Department of Agriculture yesterday issued a conditional license to Zoetis, Inc., for its vaccine against Porcine Epidemic Diarrhea Virus. Zoetis anticipates the vaccine will be available to veterinarians and pig farmers this month.

Yesterday’s announcement follows the licensing of a PEDV vaccine from Harrisvaccines in Ames in June.

Vaccines are one tool that hog farmers can use to combat disease in their swine herd.

“This is a first step in vaccine technology and we’re encouraged to see products like these come to the market that could assist producers in dealing with this devastating disease and we’re hopeful that over time that products like these and perhaps others that could be in the pipeline will assist producers to a greater degree and allow them to be able to mitigate the potential problems associated with PEDV,” said veterinarian and hog farmer Dr. Craig Rowles of Carroll.

The two-dose inactivated vaccine, licensed for use in healthy pregnant sows and gilts, is designed to help them develop antibodies that can be transmitted to their newborn piglets, according to a Zoetis release. The vaccine is given as a 2 mL intramuscular (IM) injection to sows or gilts prior to farrowing. Two doses given three weeks apart are recommended, with the second dose given two weeks pre-farrowing. Previously vaccinated sows should receive a single dose given two weeks before farrowing.

Rowles is among hundreds of pig farmers nationwide whose swine enterprise has been impacted by the virus.

“We broke last winter and our losses were nearly 15,000 pigs over a six-week period and it was devastating to our business,” said Rowles. “Not only was there a financial impact, but I can tell you there is a real morale impact as well. It’s very difficult for people to go to work knowing a large part of their job each day is to determine which pigs need to be humanely euthanized because they have been so severely affected by the disease. Those are hard days for people who are working on the farm.”

In order to receive the conditional license, the vaccine had to be proven safe in a field safety study and a reasonable expectation of efficacy demonstrated.

“The Zoetis and Harrisvaccines tools will need further study and as time goes by, those studies will be done and I’m sure a number of producers will look at implementing these technologies on their farms to try to mitigate the risk,” Rowles said.

Reports of PEDV are much lower at this time than a year ago, but there is concern that PEDV will start showing up again as colder weather arrives this fall and winter.

Although PEDV is a significant health threat to young piglets, it poses no risk to food safety or to human health.