Taking a Look at the PED Virus in the News

It’s hard to believe that the porcine epidemic diarrhea (PED) virus was first diagnosed in the United States in mid-May.  We posted the first story about the PED virus on the http://nationalhogfarmer.com/ Web site on May 20 (See, “New Swine Disease Strikes Three States.”).  Shockingly, here we are, just two months later, and the PED virus is a main topic of discussion in producer circles. There were more than 330 confirmed cases in 15 states as of July 8, according to the National Pork Board. National Hog Farmer Senior Editor Joe Vansickle’s PED virus stories are in the “most read” column every day. This week our Web site featured stories on exploring PED virus transmission risk from both manure application and transportation and funding of a study to develop a serological test to detect the virus. 

A story in the July 15, 2013 issue of National Hog Farmer, explains that early on, all signs of the disease pointed to transmissible gastroenteritis (TGE), a well-known, highly contagious viral disease characterized by vomiting, severe diarrhea and often 100% mortality of piglets less than 2 weeks of age. However, veterinarians soon realized that this virus is different. While symptoms seemed to point to TGE, the laboratory tests came back negative to the TGE virus.

Recent articles have explained how to diagnose the PED virus. Guidelines for effective sampling are available online at the Iowa State University Web site here.

While it’s always wise to maintain good biosecurity, producers are finding strict adherence to be particularly crucial now. Fair season brings an increased risk of spreading the virus as 4-H members head toward the show ring at local fairs. Health officials emphasize that the disease poses no health threat to the public or other animals, and there is no risk to food safety. However, it is important for fair exhibitors to check their livestock for signs of illness and keep pigs isolated from the rest of the herd once the fair is over in order to help prevent spreading the disease.

The race is on to study possible modes of transmission and increase understanding about how pigs build immunity to the virus. Universities are collaborating as part of a national effort to slow the spread of the disease. In June, the National Pork Board allocated $450,000 in supplemental funding to study PED virus transmission. The Iowa Pork Producers Association also pledged $77,000, primarily aimed at refining tests for the PED virus.

While no one wants to battle a new disease, Paul Sundberg, DVM, vice president of science and technology at the National Pork Board, says the processes that are being put in place to deal with PED virus could prove helpful in dealing with future disease outbreaks. He says it will be extremely important for U.S. animal health officials to understand their capabilities in the event that a foreign disease such as foot-and-mouth disease reaches U.S. shores. Sundberg points to biosecurity as being a key to helping prevent disease outbreaks of all kinds.

Have you dealt with PED virus?  Are you taking any special precautions to keep your herd safe? Share your thoughts in the “Comments” section below, or email lora.berg@penton.com. The National Hog Farmer staff will continue to keep you informed as the PED virus story continues to unfold.

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