Panel suggests pork producers can eliminate new virus

Published on: Jun 5, 2013
There was anxious news and good news coming out of a panel discussion on porcine epidemic diarrhea virus (PEDV) during a luncheon at the World Pork Expo hosted by the National Pork Producers Council (NPPC).

The disease has "consistently" led to 90% mortality or higher in suckling pigs — pigs under three weeks old — and available vaccines won't prevent infection, according to Dr. Greg Stevenson, a professor and researcher at the Iowa State University Diagnostic Veterinary Laboratory.

However, PEDV is fatal only for baby pigs, added Dr. Howard Hill, a veterinarian from Cambridge, Iowa, and NPPC vice president. For older pigs, it's "a transient disease" that causes morbidity in growing pigs and sows from which most recover. It may set back growth, but it won't be fatal, he emphasized.

PEDV also is not affected by common heat treatment, which is bad news heading into summer, Stevenson said.

It is quite stable at high temperatures, noted Dr. Tom Burkgren, executive director of the American Association of Swine Veterinarians (AASV). However, it does not flourish at high temperatures, he said.

Burkgren and Hill also said the disease can be eliminated through biosecurity to keep it from spreading to other sow herds and through management that involves properly cleaning and disinfecting barns after moving out sows and one week of downtime before moving sows back into the barn.

PEDV is less stable than porcine reproductive and respiratory syndrome (PRRS), "and since we know how to get PRRS out of a house, we can get this out of a house," Hill said.

PEDV is not a zoonotic disease, which means it does not spread to people, Dr. Lisa Becton, director of swine health and research at the National Pork Board, noted.

She said the board's marketing specialists are making this clear to retail customers. "It does not affect food safety, and it does not affect people," she said.

Burkgren said AASV, in partnership with NPPC, the Pork Board, the U.S. Department of Agriculture and other parties, is preparing a 12-page-long epidemiological survey for producers who have experienced PEDV infections to find out how the virus got into the U.S. and how to keep it out in the future, how it spreads, how to keep it from spreading and how to contain and eliminate it.

Stevenson said, to date, he has found 113 positive samples for PEDV from manure sent to his lab for testing, and of these, he identified the virus on 103 specific farm sites: 62 from sites in Iowa, 15 in Minnesota and the remaining from sites are throughout the Midwest.

The World Pork Expo, the largest swine-specific event in the world, runs June 5-8 in Des Moines, Iowa. The panel discussion was June 5.