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New virus gives pork producers headaches

Above: Iowa Pork Producers Association Communications Director Ron Birkenholz.

On May 16, the first confirmed cases of Porcine Epidemic Diarrhea Virus (PEDV) in the United States were found in swine herds in Iowa and Indiana, with suspected cases in Illinois and Minnesota. PEDV was first discovered in England in 1971. Authorities do not know the extent to which PEDV has spread in Iowa or where it originated.

PEDV does not affect humans, and officials aren’t concerned about food safety. The threat to pork production occurs higher in the supply chain; pigs two weeks old or younger are most susceptible to diarrhea caused by the virus, and can die of dehydration. PEDV is very similar to Transmissible Gastroenteritis (TGE), both in terms of mortality and symptoms. Like PEDV, TGE is deadliest for pigs two weeks old or less, and dehydrates pigs through vomiting or diarrhea.

Iowa Pork Producers Association Communications Director Ron Birkenholz says producers should continue implementing biosecurity measures intended, in part, to halt the spread of diseases like PEDV.

[It] pretty much all comes down to being very careful and mindful of moving pigs, and that sort of thing – not mixing pigs that may be exhibiting the symptoms with pigs that aren’t, so you don’t want to spread it that way. They just have to maintain – do the things they normally do, to try to keep this thing as minimal as possible.

Birkenholz is confident that biosecurity measures will keep the spread of PEDV to a minimum, but recommends that producers immediately contact their herd veterinarians at the first signs of the virus.