News / Health

    Deadly Pig Virus Re-Infects US Farm, Fuels Supply Fears

    FILE - A group of young pigs stare out of a pen at a hog farm in central North Dakota, in this Jan. 2005 file photo.
    FILE - A group of young pigs stare out of a pen at a hog farm in central North Dakota, in this Jan. 2005 file photo.
    Reuters
    An Indiana farm has become the first to confirm publicly it suffered a second outbreak of a deadly pig virus, fueling concerns that a disease that has wiped out 10 percent of the U.S. hog population will be harder to contain than producers and veterinarians expected.
     
    The farm, through its veterinarian, publicly acknowledged on Tuesday a repeat incident of Porcine Epidemic Diarrhea virus (PEDv), which has killed up to 7 million pigs and pushed pork prices to record highs since it was first identified in the United States a year ago.
     
    Matt Ackerman, whose veterinary practice is in southeastern Indiana, told Reuters the farm's operators did not want to be identified but authorized him to speak on their behalf.
     
    The state and federal effort to stamp out PEDv has operated on an assumption that a pig, once infected, develops immunity and will not be afflicted by the disease again for at least several years. Likewise, farms that had endured the disease were not known to suffer secondary outbreaks.
     
    But a year after the virus was identified, repeat outbreaks have occurred at farms but not been publicly confirmed before now. These so-called secondary outbreaks are a challenge to efforts to stem the disease, which is almost always fatal to baby piglets.
     
    Nationwide, PEDv outbreaks seem to recur in about 30 percent of infected farms, the American Association of Swine Veterinarians told Reuters, confirming for the first time the likelihood of repeated outbreaks.
     
    Hog futures reached a record high last month and are up more than 26 percent at $115 per hundredweight since the first U.S. outbreak was confirmed last summer. Retail pork prices also have set new records, and a wave of re-infection could cause even more losses to the nation's hog herd.
     
    In the Indiana case, genetic sequencing showed the “exact same strain” of PEDv hit pigs at the Indiana farm in May 2013 and again in March 2014, said Ackerman, who collected samples from the farm.
     
    Piglets born to sows that were infected for a second time have a death rate of about 30 percent, compared to near-total death loss among newborn piglets during the first outbreak, he said.
     
    The incidence of the disease “re-breaking” on farms after it appeared to have been wiped out, indicates that the risk for ongoing severe losses from the virus is bigger than previously expected. The lack of long-term immunity also means hog producers must keep up strict bio-security measures to fight the disease, which has already spread to 30 states.
     
    Reasons for re-infection unclear
     
    Veterinarians and others have been unable to predict the duration of immunity to PEDv in hogs following exposure, in part because the disease had never been in the United States before last year.
     
    Ackerman had thought hogs would have a natural immunity to PEDv for three years after being infected because that is the case for a similar disease called Transmissible Gastroenteritis.
     
    “Just because a farm broke with PEDv last year doesn't mean that they are protected from re-breaking with it this year,” he said in a telephone interview.
     
    Ackerman said he did not know why the female pigs, or sows, on the Indiana farm were re-infected after being exposed to the virus during the original outbreak last year. At the time, they were about six months to a year old. The sows are having piglets and passing limited immunity on to their offspring, he said.
     
    The farm “does an excellent job of sanitation,” he said. “That's why it's so hard to figure out why they're struggling with it.”
     
    The repeat case of PEDv in Indiana puts to rest gossip about a re-break in the state that has passed from one Midwest farmer to another for weeks. Producers are on edge because no vaccine has yet been able to completely protect pigs from the disease.
     
    PEDv is transmitted from pig to pig by contact with pig manure, which contains the virus. It can be transmitted from farm to farm on trucks, and many veterinarians also believe it is spreading through animal feed.
     
    Harry Snelson, a veterinarian who represents the American Association of Swine Veterinarians, said repeat occurrences  tend not to be as severe as the first outbreak, although farms are still losing pigs.
     
    One potential reason for repeat outbreaks is that high levels of the virus, found in fecal material, overwhelm hogs' natural immunity, Snelson said.
     
    “It probably doesn't take a whole lot to override the level of immunity that we're getting,” he said. “Obviously immunity is a key part of our being able to control the spread of the virus.”
     
    Preliminary results from studies on immunity, directed by the National Pork Board, confirm “immunity does appear not to be very long lived,” said Lisa Becton, director of swine health information for the board. The board has collected more than $2 million for research on PEDv.
     
    The re-breaking is causing concern among farmers and meat packers across the country, as the PEDv outbreak continues to spread with no definitive solution in sight.
     
    “If you have that disease, it causes a huge death loss, and then you get it again,” said Josh Trenary, executive director of Indiana Pork. “It's pretty clear why it would be concerning.”

    You May Like

    Video Twists and Turns Aplenty in US Presidential Race

    Even as Americans pause for this week’s Memorial Day holiday, much attention is focused on the presidential contest

    China's Education Reforms Spark Protest

    Beijing is putting a quota system in place to increase the number of students from poor regions attending universities

    The Struggle With Painkillers: Treating Pain Without Feeding Addiction

    'Wonder drug' pain medications have turned out to be major problem: not only do they run high risk of addicting the user, but they can actually make patients' chronic pain worse, US CDC says

    Featured Videos

    Your JavaScript is turned off or you have an old version of Adobe's Flash Player. Get the latest Flash player.
    Chinese-Americans Heart Trump, Bucking National Trendi
    X
    May 27, 2016 5:57 AM
    A new study conducted by three Asian-American organizations shows there are three times as many Democrats as there are Republicans among Asian-American voters, and they favor Hillary Clinton over Donald Trump. But one group, called Chinese-Americans For Trump, is going against the tide and strongly supports the business tycoon. VOA’s Elizabeth Lee caught up with them at a Trump rally and reports from Anaheim, California.
    Video

    Video Chinese-Americans Heart Trump, Bucking National Trend

    A new study conducted by three Asian-American organizations shows there are three times as many Democrats as there are Republicans among Asian-American voters, and they favor Hillary Clinton over Donald Trump. But one group, called Chinese-Americans For Trump, is going against the tide and strongly supports the business tycoon. VOA’s Elizabeth Lee caught up with them at a Trump rally and reports from Anaheim, California.
    Video

    Video Reactions to Trump's Success Polarized Abroad

    What seemed impossible less than a year ago is now almost a certainty. New York real estate mogul Donald Trump has won the number of delegates needed to secure the Republican presidential nomination. The prospect has sparked as much controversy abroad as it has in the United States. Zlatica Hoke has more.
    Video

    Video Drawings by Children in Hiroshima Show Hope and Peace

    On Friday, President Barack Obama will visit Hiroshima, Japan, the first American president to do so while in office. In August 1945, the United States dropped an atomic bomb on the city to force Japan's surrender in World War II. Although their city lay in ruins, some Hiroshima schoolchildren drew pictures of hope and peace. The former students and their drawings are now part of a documentary called “Pictures from a Hiroshima Schoolyard.” VOA's Deborah Block has the story.
    Video

    Video Vietnamese Rapper Performs for Obama

    A prominent young Vietnamese artist told President Obama said she faced roadblocks as a woman rapper, and asked the president about government support for the arts. He asked her to rap, and he even offered to provide a base beat for her. Watch what happened.
    Video

    Video Roots Run Deep for Tunisia's Dwindling Jewish Community

    This week, hundreds of Jewish pilgrims are defying terrorist threats to celebrate an ancient religious festival on the Tunisian island of Djerba. The festivities cast a spotlight on North Africa's once-vibrant Jewish population that has all but died out in recent decades. Despite rising threats of militant Islam and the country's battered economy, one of the Arab world's last Jewish communities is staying put and nurturing a new generation. VOA’s Lisa Bryant reports.
    Video

    Video Meet Your New Co-Worker: The Robot

    Increasing numbers of robots are joining the workforce, as companies scale back and more processes become automated. The latest robots are flexible and collaborative, built to work alongside humans as opposed to replacing them. VOA’s Tina Trinh looks at the next generation of automated employees helping out their human colleagues.
    Video

    Video Wheelchair Technology in Tune With Times

    Technologies for the disabled, including wheelchair technology, are advancing just as quickly as everything else in the digital age. Two new advances in wheelchairs offer improved control and a more comfortable fit. VOA's George Putic reports.
    Video

    Video Baby Boxes Offer Safe Haven for Unwanted Children

    No one knows exactly how many babies are abandoned worldwide each year. The statistic is a difficult one to determine because it is illegal in most places. Therefore unwanted babies are often hidden and left to die. But as Erika Celeste reports from Woodburn, Indiana, a new program hopes to make surrendering infants safer for everyone.
    Video

    Video California Celebration Showcases Local Wines, Balloons

    Communities in the U.S. often hold festivals to show what makes them special. In California, for example, farmers near Fresno celebrate their figs and those around Gilmore showcase their garlic. Mike O'Sullivan reports that the wine-producing region of Temecula offers local vintages in an annual festival where rides on hot-air balloons add to the excitement.
    Video

    Video US Elementary School Offers Living Science Lessons

    Zero is not a good score on a test at school. But Discovery Elementary is proud of its “net zero” rating. Net zero describes a building in which the amount of energy provided by on-site renewable sources equals the amount of energy the building uses. As Faiza Elmasry tells us, the innovative features in the building turn the school into a teaching tool, where kids can't help but learn about science and sustainability. Faith Lapidus narrates.

    Special Report

    Adrift The Invisible African Diaspora