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PEDv spreads to 26 states

Porcine epidemic diarrhea virus, or PEDv, has now spread to pig herds in 26 states. Experts offered updates on this devastating disease at the National Pork Forum in Kansas City, Mo., on March 7. (Journal photo by Jennifer Carrico.)

By Doug Rich

Porcine epidemic diarrhea virus, first confirmed in the United States on May 17, 2013, has now spread to herds in 26 states. Experts gave an update on this devastating disease at the National Pork Forum in Kansas City, Mo., on March 7.

“This virus has attacked our industry since last spring and it is one of the most serious and most devastating diseases that our producers have dealt with in decades,” said Karen Richter, president of the National Pork Board.

PEDv is not a human health issue or a food safety issue. It is a pig production issue only. It is a Coronavirus that is related to transmissible gastroenteritis. It causes severe diarrhea in pigs of all ages. The mortality rate is nearly 100 percent in pre-weaned pigs.

The National Pork Board has authorized an additional $650,000 for PEDv research and education. This money will be focused on feed research, breeding herd immunity, and discovering how this virus gained entry to this country. Last year the industry spent $1.1 million in supplemental funding on PEDv research.

During the forum it was announced that Genome Alberta pledged an additional $500,000 for PEDv research.

At the present time there is no vaccine for PEDv. Liz Wagstrom, chief veterinarian for the National Pork Producers Council, said it will be months before a vaccine could be released on even a provisional basis.

“Vaccine is a potential tool to use with this virus but I don’t think it will be the solution,” said Paul Sundberg, vice president of science and technology at the National Pork Board.

A variety of management protocols is being used to control the disease right now. One of those practices is called feedback. Sundberg said feedback is a process by which managers can expose sows to the disease. The objective is to harvest the virus that is excreted from the little pigs and feed it back to the sows in order for the sow to develop immunity and protect the next litter.

“Feedback has been around for 50 to 60 years and is a time-proven procedure to protect the piglets and boost immunity in the sow herd,” Sundberg said. “Right now we don’t have a commercial vaccine available and we know that feedback can be effective.”

Craig Rowles, a pork producer from Carroll, Iowa, used feedback on his farm when he had an outbreak of PEDv last November.

“It is not pretty, it is not nice, nobody likes to do it, but that is what we have to do in order to limit the losses,” Rowles said.

Feedback was successfully used to control TGE many years ago, he said.

Producers are using extreme cleaning and sanitation practices in an attempt to stop the spread of this virus. The disease is spread through oral contact with contaminated feces. The most common sources of infected feces are pigs, trucks, boots, clothing, or other fomites.

“The level of cleaning and sanitation that we instituted on our farms has gone to a level above and beyond anything we have ever done before,” Rowles said.

The virus does not like hot and dry conditions. Rowles said they clean rooms between groups and then heat them up and dry them out. No pigs are loaded into wet rooms anymore. Even trailers for hauling pigs are washed and then heated up to 160 degrees for 10 minutes.

“If there are a million virus particles in a milliliter of fecal material and we disinfect it to 99.9999, statistically we still have a virus in that milliliter of material that is infective,” Rowles said.

Producers are using early weaning to control the disease, as well. Rowles said he normally weans pigs at 19 to 21 days of age. When he was fighting this virus on his farm he was weaning at 7 to 8 days of age.

“The idea is to get the pigs away from the viral load as quickly as possible,” Sundberg said.

PEDv is beginning to have an effect on the market. Steve Meyer, Paragon Economics, said if only one farm has a disease it is a disaster for that farm, but when the disease is widespread it causes an inelastic demand for pork and an inelastic demand for hogs.

“If we reduce the quantity of hogs on the market by 1 percent, the price goes up by more than 1 percent,” Meyer said.

Meyer said the perverse part of this widespread disease is that financially pork producers will do very well this year and they will do better with this disease than they would have done without it. But nobody is happy about losing pigs.

“The impact will eventually fall on consumers with much higher pork prices and we will that as we go through the summer months,” Meyer said. “The numbers that we see through January suggest the possibility for hog prices up in the $120 to $125 range on a hundredweight carcass basis this summer.”

For more information on recommendations for producers as well as individuals preparing for the show pig circuit go to Weekly updates on the spread of the disease are available at

Doug Rich can be reached by phone at 785-749-5304 or by email at

Date: 3/17/2014


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