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On the Farm: Protect Your Pigs from PEDV

GOK_Pigs_PEDV_PostPorcine epidemic diarrhea virus (PEDV) is a disease that impacts pork populations, causing severe diarrhea and dehydration. Newborn piglets exposed to the disease usually die within a few days, while older pigs face sickness and weight loss.

Instances of the disease were found primarily in Europe and Asia until spring 2013, when the illness made its way to the United States. It has since made its way to Canada, expanding throughout North America.

While the illness poses zero threat to humans with regard to exposure to sick pigs or consumption of impacted meat, the spread of this disease does impact pig population numbers—a fact that has already caused major economic loss for some suppliers.

And the spread, unfortunately, has no signs of slowing down any time soon, with evidence of the virus now reported in 27 of the 50 states.

Below, we highlight how government officials are reacting to the outbreak, how the agricultural industry is responding to protect pork populations, and tips to keep hogs happy and healthy in transport.

Call for Disaster Assistance Efforts

In reaction to the outbreak, U.S. senators have asked for support. Officials recognize the devastation felt by these pork producers:

  • 4 million pigs lost.
  • General loss to agriculture’s economic landscape.
  • Continual threat to an industry that holds 550,000 jobs.
  • Continual threat to an industry that contributes $34.5 billion to the U.S. economy.

Based on these alarming facts, senators are pushing Agriculture Secretary Tom Vilsack to explore critical livestock disaster assistance provisions in the 2014 Farm Bill. If applied, these would deploy financial assistance directly to ranchers dealing with livestock loss as soon as possible after approvals. Monetary gains would help owners cope with management of existing virus cases and any spread of the disease.

Follow the farm bill conversation on Twitter at #farmbill.

Suggested Plan to Save the U.S. Pork Industry 

Outside of direct legislative influence, the National Pork Board has made research efforts to fight the spread of PEDV a top priority, dedicating more than $1 million to discover new opportunities to combat the disease.

There is hope that combined interests of swine, feed and veterinary groups will drive discussions and collaborative efforts that could save livestock, and subdue outbreak impacts through research findings.

In particular, researchers hope to answer a few key questions to help them better understand the causes and impacts of PEDV:

  • What role does feed play in transmission of PEDV?
  • What can be done to increase sow immunity to PEDV?
  • What triggers transmission?
  • What biosecurity risks exist tied to the disease?

Truck Transport: Tips to Keep Livestock Healthy and Clean

To mitigate risk, do all you can to prevent infected manure from reaching your farm and your pigs. Even a small amount can cause an outbreak, according to swine specialist Bob Thaler.

Thaler notes transportation to and from market as critical toward prevention assistance, and a known danger zone for disease exposure. To maintain health and avoid unintentionally spreading the disease, consider the following tips:

  • Use disposable boots to your advantage when loading and unloading pigs from the truck to buying stations and back to your farm.
  • Be careful with truck washes, as they can be inadequate as a thorough cleanser. Be sure to spray with disinfectant after, and dry the truck at 160 degrees for 10 minutes or one week at room temperature. This will insure that the truck is properly cleaned and disinfected.
  • Take caution in convenience stores near hog-selling locations, and remember that the PED virus can be picked up and transported through your shoes to your livestock at home.

What measures do you implement to keep your farm free of harmful pathogens and disease? Share in the comment section below.

Image Source: U.S. Department of Agriculture under Creative Commons Attribution 2.0 Generic