PEDv – What You Need to Know

— Written By

By: Margaret Ross, Livestock Agent – Craven & Jones Counties

                 There is a lot of talk right now about PED virus – Porcine Epidemic Diarrhea Virus. (Porcine is the scientific name for swine.) I wanted to take a minute and share with you what information you should know as a consumer.

                  PEDv is a fairly new virus to the United States but is widespread in other parts of the world; it has been here for a little less than a year. The greatest effect is on baby pigs from birth to around three weeks of age causing nearly 100% mortality; however, it is not devastating to the sow (mother pigs) population. It is highly contagious between pigs and is typically fatal in very young animals. Older pigs will have acute diarrhea from which they will recover. The swine industry is working diligently to produce an effective vaccine, but there are multiple strains of the virus making that process very difficult.

                  This virus is not zoonotic, meaning it does not affect humans. It also does not affect pork quality. Consumers should not be concerned for their food safety, since it only affects growth and development of the pigs, not their meat quality or food safety. Many of you are probably wondering if this will affect prices at the grocery store for pork. At this time, it is not affecting pork prices, but it is likely to increase prices over the coming months due to the decrease in marketable pigs.

                 The virus likely spreads more easily in cold and wet conditions making biosecurity practices that limit the transmission of disease between farms even more important than usual. Biosecurity practices include things like foot baths when entering hog houses as well as making sure to wear different clothes / boots on each farm and shower in / shower out facilities. In addition, trailers / tires are sprayed with a disinfectant to lower the risk of the virus spreading. Individuals visiting multiple farms in a short period of time should be aware of each farm’s status and try to visit PED-positive farms at the end of the schedule.

                  Some reports may have created confusion regarding the current strategy in place to deal with the virus. There is a veterinary-approved practice of taking pigs that already died from the virus and feeding their intestinal tissue back to the sows to allow her to build up antibodies to this virus, which she then passes on to her new piglets, in turn protecting them from the virus. Until there is an efficacious, FDA approved vaccine, this practice remains the best and only option for the industry in dealing with the virus and reducing the spread and future losses within the farm.

                  The public should also not be concerned about groundwater; PEDv does not affect groundwater. Hog producers are following very strictly-enforced regulations on the burial and disposal of these animals. Producers are doing the best they can to make sure the pigs are comfortable and taken care of in the best manner possible.

                  North Carolina is number two in pork production in the nation, so this is a very important issue for us at this time. This industry accounts for over $2.5 billion in North Carolina annually. The swine industry provides a wholesome, safe product for you and your family to eat. The United States food supply is extremely regulated and that will not change.

                  If you have any other questions, please contact your local Cooperative Extension livestock agent, your local swine veterinarian, the North Carolina Pork Council, the National Pork Board, the North Carolina Department of Agriculture Veterinary Division, or any other swine industry representative. Feel free to contact me directly with questions at Margaret_Ross@ncsu.edu.

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