Swine virus outbreak affects pork industry in Missouri and Kansas

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KANSAS CITY, Mo. — A swine virus outbreak is affecting the pork industry in Missouri and Kansas.

This swine virus is killing piglets and experts say it’s hit 27 states and it’s spreading.

It’s going to be tough in a city known for its barbecue, the pork business is getting hit hard.

“I would say between our sausages and our bacon and our chops that pork is probably our top-selling thing,” says Adam Northcraft, the general manager and co-owner of The Local Pig restaurant.

“We’re still not 100 percent sure on the different ways that the virus is being transmitted to the pigs,” said Dr. Greg Cline, a veterinarian and a Swine Technical Manager that researches enteric diseases — or diseases of the gastrointestinal tract. He says a swine virus — known as PED — is killing pigs. Economists are saying the virus has already killed about 7 million pigs.

“There was no existing immunity within the U.S. swine herd,” Dr. Cline said.

He says the virus was first introduced in the U.S. about a year ago, but they aren’t sure how. He says it’s lethal to pigs, but doesn’t effect people.

“You can’t catch this virus from a pig, you can’t catch this virus from the pork that you’re eating out of the store,” Dr. Cline said.

You might not feel pain in your belly, but you might feel it in your pocket.

“We’ve just lost that many pigs, and we’re going to see the prices increase this year, maybe as much as 10 to 20 percent,” Dr. Cline said.

Northcraft said it’s a concern.

“The customers aren’t going to like seeing the prices of pork belly go up, or all their favorite cuts,” he said.

Dr. Cline says this virus is still too new, but experts are trying to prevent it from spreading, and that vaccines are coming.

Experts say pork products are still safe to eat, and the virus is non-threatening to other people and animals.


Questions about Pork Epidemic Diarrhea Virus (PEDV)

Q. What is PEDV and where did it come from?
A. PEDV is caused by a virus (Coronavirus) that is related to transmissible gastroenteritis (TGE) virus.  The virus is not a new virus as it was first recognized in England in 1971. Since then, the disease has been identified in a number of European countries, and more recently in China, Korea and Japan. Since PEDV is widespread in many countries, it is not a trade-restricting disease, but rather a production-related disease. However, this is a new virus to the U.S. and was first confirmed in the country on May 17, 2013. Research has shown this strain of virus to be very similar to a strain of virus found in China.

Q. Can people get it from being around pigs or eating pork?
A. PEDV is not zoonotic, so therefore it poses no risk to other animals or humans. Also, it poses no risk to food safety. PEDV does not affect pork safety. Pork remains completely safe to eat.

Q. How does it spread from farm to farm? How does the farmer know if his pigs have it?  How widespread is it?
A. PEDV is transmitted via the fecal-oral route and may appear to be the same as transmissible gastroenteritis (TGE) virus with acute diarrhea within 12 to 36 hours of onset. Short distance aerosol transmission may be possible.  Farmers work with their veterinarians on a regular basis to monitor the health of their herds.  Laboratory testing is the only way to diagnose PEDV.   As I’m writing, 27 states had reported at least one case of PEDV.

Q. If a farm gets it, do all the pigs at a farm die?
A. PEDV causes severe diarrhea and vomiting in pigs of all ages.  However, the highest mortality – almost 100% – is in the pre-weaned pigs.  These range from newborn to 15 pounds. They can be up to four weeks old depending on the farm.  In general, the other pigs on the farm recover from the disease.

Q. Can all sizes of farms get PEDV?
A.  All pigs are susceptible to the virus.  An outbreak of PEDV is possible at all types of farms.

Q. What is the industry doing to help producers?
A. Since the virus was confirmed, the pork industry organizations have worked closely with veterinarians, university researchers, government personnel and private industry to coordinate efforts and share information on the disease. The Pork Checkoff has invested about $1.7 million in research funding.  As PEDV has spread into Canada, these collaborative efforts now include groups from both countries.  Research has created faster methods of testing for the disease, studied the stability of the virus in the environment and evaluated ways to control the virus.   New research will examine other possible avenues of transmission including feed ingredients, explore questions about breeding herd immunity and work to bolster the knowledge base on biosecurity.
Every two weeks, the Pork Checkoff publishes the PEDV Update newsletter with some of the latest information and resources available. All Checkoff-funded PEDV-related materials are available at pork.org/pedv.

Q. How many pigs have died (locally or nationally)? What does this mean for meat markets/our community? How could it raise pork prices?
A. Because PEDV is not a reportable disease, no one really knows how many pigs have died across the state or nation.  A recent government report shows the U.S. inventory of hogs and pigs was down about 3 percent from last year.  For the last few weeks, pig farmers have been receiving record prices for the pigs being delivered to market. If hog prices stay high, this will affect pork prices at the grocery store.  If time shows there weren’t as many pigs lost as we thought, hog prices will come down.

PEDV poses no risk to food safety. PEDV does not affect pork safety. Pork remains completely safe to eat.

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