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

Pundits Split Over Long-Term US Role in Afghanistan

Security pact remains condition for American presence beyond 2014; deadline criticized More

US Eyes Islamic State Threat

Officials warn that IS could pose a threat to US homeland More

Video Ukraine: Captured Troops Proof of Russian Role in Separatist Fight

Moscow says Russian troops crossed into Ukrainian territory by mistake More

Featured Videos

Your JavaScript is turned off or you have an old version of Adobe's Flash Player. Get the latest Flash player.
Scientists Unlock Mystery of Bird Flocksi
X
George Putic
August 25, 2014 4:00 PM
How can flocks of birds, schools of fish or herds of antelope suddenly change direction -- all the individuals adjusting their movement in concert, at seemingly the same time? British researchers now have some insights into this behavior, which has puzzled scientists for a long time. VOA's George Putic has more.
Video

Video Scientists Unlock Mystery of Bird Flocks

How can flocks of birds, schools of fish or herds of antelope suddenly change direction -- all the individuals adjusting their movement in concert, at seemingly the same time? British researchers now have some insights into this behavior, which has puzzled scientists for a long time. VOA's George Putic has more.
Video

Video Ukraine: Captured Troops Proof of Russian Role in Separatist Fight

Ukrainian officials say they have captured Russian soldiers on Ukrainian territory -- the latest accusation of Moscow's involvement in the conflict in eastern Ukraine. VOA's Gabe Joselow reports from the Ukrainian side of the battle, where soldiers are convinced of Russia's role.
Video

Video Rubber May Soon Come From Dandelions

Synthetic rubber has been around for more than a century, but quality tires for cars, trucks and aircraft still need up to 40 percent or more natural rubber content. As the source of natural rubber, the rubber tree, is prone to disease and can be affected by bad weather. So scientists are looking for replacements. And as VOA’s George Putic reports, they may have found one in a ubiquitous weed.
Video

Video Jewish Life in Argentina Reflected in Yiddish Tango

Jewish people from across Europe and Russia have been immigrating to Argentina for hundreds of years. They brought with them dance music that were eventually mixed with Argentine tango. The result is Yiddish tango -- a fusion of melodies and cultural experiences that is still evolving today. Elizabeth Lee reports from the Skirball Cultural Center in Los Angeles, where one band is bringing Yiddish tango to an American audience.
Video

Video Peace Returns to Ferguson as Community Tries to Heal

Thousands of people nationwide are expected to attend funeral services Monday in the U.S. Midwestern city of St. Louis, Missouri, for Michael Brown, the unarmed African-American teenager who was fatally shot by a white police officer August 9 in the St. Louis suburb of Ferguson. The shooting touched off days of violent demonstrations there, resulting in more than 100 arrests. VOA's Chris Simkins reports from Ferguson where the community is trying to move on after weeks of racial tension.
Video

Video Meeting in Minsk May Hinge on Putin Story

The presidents of Russia and Ukraine are expected to meet face-to-face Tuesday in Minsk, along with European leaders, for talks on the situation in Ukraine. Political analysts say the much welcomed dialogue could help bring an end to months of deadly clashes between pro-Russia separatists and Ukrainian forces in the country's southeast. But much depends on the actions of one man, Russian President Vladimir Putin. VOA's Daniel Schearf reports from Moscow.
Video

Video Artists Shun Russia's Profanity Law

Russia in July enacted a law threatening fines for publicly displayed profanity in media, films, literature, music and theater. The restriction, the toughest since the Soviet era, aims to protect the Russian language and culture and has been welcomed by those who say cursing is getting out of control. But many artists reject the move as a patronizing and ineffective act of censorship in line with a string of conservative morality laws. VOA's Daniel Schearf reports from Moscow.
Video

Video British Fighters on Frontline of ISIS Information War

Security services are racing to identify the Islamic State militant who beheaded U.S. journalist James Foley in Syria. The murderer spoke English on camera with a British accent. It’s estimated that several hundred British citizens are fighting for the Islamic State, also called ISIL or ISIS, alongside thousands of other foreign jihadists. Henry Ridgwell reports for VOA from the center of the investigation in London.

AppleAndroid