Cooler weather seems to have caused a dramatic spike in cases of porcine epidemic diarrhea (PED) virus, according to a report today by Reuters.

PED virus has spread to about 250 farms since June, Tom Ray, North Carolina director of livestock health, told Reuters on Thursday. While the disease continues to spread, Ray said it appears the rate of spread is slowing.

“We have about 250 positive swine farms,” Ray says. “Probably about three of four weeks ago, we went from normally two to three cases in a week to three new reports in a day. That has actually started to go back to smaller numbers per week.”

 

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Ray says up to 150,000 sows could be affected. The disease is fatal to baby pigs, with the death rate in some litters up to 80%.

“It is definitely up,” he says of the number of infected farms, however, locating farms with the disease has been difficult because PED virus is a disease that is not required to be reported.

As of Sept. 1, North Carolina had 8.7 million hogs, including a breeding herd of 870,000 head, according to the U.S. Department of Agriculture.

PED virus is not harmful to humans nor is it transmissible through pork. It has occurred in Europe and Asia, but this is the first year that it has been seen in the United States.

“You have a (hog) population that is naive because it has never been exposed to this disease before,” Ray says. “Not having this virus before, you are going to have more losses initially. We're really holding our collective breaths because the virus has a tendency to peak in cooler weather in the winter,” he says.

“It is definitely on the rise, but so is the immunity,” he says of the number of cases. “But we had a slower rise in the last week or so than about two to three weeks ago.”

The death of baby pigs from the disease will mean fewer market hogs next spring.

Heather Jones, senior agribusiness analyst at BBT Capital markets, estimates losses in North Carolina from the disease could cut weekly hog slaughter next spring by 1 to 1.5%.

Longer-term pig losses from the disease should decrease as herds become immune to it and the pork industry develops vaccines to cope with it, Ray says. “Eventually it is going to be the new-normal production disease,” he adds.

Read the rest of the story at Reuters.com. 

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