DENVER – Pork prices could increase in coming months because of a new virus that has migrated to the US, killing piglets in 15 states at an alarming rate in facilities where it has been reported, according to The Associated Press. This disease, however, is not harmful to humans, and there is no evidence it affects pork products, said Dr. Nick Striegel, assistant state veterinarian for the Colorado Department of Agriculture.
The Porcine Epidemic Diarrhea Virus, also known as PED, was thought to exist only in Europe and China, but Colorado and 14 other states began reporting the virus in April, and officials confirmed its presence in May, Striegel said . The virus causes severe diarrhea, vomiting and severe dehydration in pigs, and can be fatal.
“It has been devastating for those producers where it has been diagnosed. It affects nursing pigs, and in some places, there has been 100 percent mortality,” he said.
Outbreaks are not required to be reported to federal officials, so the extent of the spread is difficult to determine, but in Colorado at least two large production facilities have seen outbreaks, he said.
The virus has been confirmed in approximately 200 hog facilities in 14 other states including Arkansas, Iowa, Illinois, Indiana, Kansas, Michigan, Minnesota, Missouri, North Carolina, New York, Ohio, Oklahoma, Pennsylvania, and South Dakota, the American Association of Swine Veterinarians relayed.
The impact on the availability of pork and meat prices is difficult to estimate, said Dr. Lisa Becton, director of swine health information and research for the National Pork Board. “At this point, I really don’t have any indications what that potential impact would be. Obviously, we know for individual farms the impact is severe, especially if it’s a sow farm that has baby pigs, because baby pigs do suffer the most from the disease,” she said.
The Iowa Pork Industry Center said the ability to test for the disease is limited. It is believed to be transmitted by infected food or feces, and can be contained by quarantining infected animals and washing down trucks and production facilities.
The disease can spread quickly and has killed entire populations of pigs under seven days old, Becton said.
“As they get older, by the time they’re weaned at around 3 weeks of age, death loss can be around 80 percent or in severe cases upwards of 100 percent. Typically, after weaning mortality declines dramatically,” she added. Veterinarians are still not certain how the disease got to the US, she said.