Pig virus victims rise in U.S. hog herd

(Reuters) — Confirmed cases of porcine epidemic diarrhea virus in the United States increased by 296 in the week ended March 15.


It brings the total number to 4,757, according to data released March 20 by the U.S. Department of Agriculture’s National Animal Health Laboratory Network.


The U.S. and Canadian hog industries have recently developed partnerships to research what role, if any, feed or feed ingredients have had in the transmission of PED, the National Pork Board said last week. 


The USDA report does not include test results from feed samples.


No new states have reported cases, which leaves the affected states at 27, the network said.


PED has also been found in four Canadian provinces.


One case can represent an individual animal or an entire herd at a single site, but hog industry analysts estimate PED has killed an estimated five million U.S. hogs since it was discovered last May.


“Unfortunately, it has spread rapidly this winter, especially here in Ohio,” said Duane Stateler, president of the Ohio Pork Council.


PED, which does not affect humans and is not a food safety risk, causes diarrhea, vomiting and severe dehydration in pigs.


Older pigs have a chance of survival, by 80 to 100 percent of piglets that contract it die.


“The smaller the pig, the harder it is for them to recover and come back,” Stateler said.


The U.S. hog industry has grappled with tactics to contain the spread of the highly contagious pig virus, but strict biosecurity measures remain its main line of defence.


The virus’s spread has already crimped the market-ready hog supply, not only in the U.S. Midwest but also on the East Coast, which has forced some pork packing plants to reduce slaughter operations.


There is talk in the hog industry that some Midwest pork packing facilities may either cut one day a week, trim daily operating hours or eliminate Saturdays and overtime to reduce total operating hours.


Smithfield Foods Inc. suspended hog slaughter March 14 at its Tar Heel, North Carolina, plant because PED has tightened hog supplies.

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