By Scott Bailey, Swine Account Leader
Porcine Epidemic Diarrhea Virus (PEDv) has been making headlines here in the United States since May 2013. PEDv is a coronavirus similar to Transmissible Gastroenteritis (TGE). The disease is deadly to newborn and young pigs with almost 100% mortality for 3-5 weeks but has less effect on older animals. This virus poses no risk to humans either through live animals or pork consumption.
PEDv has been endemic in other parts of the world but had never been diagnosed in North America before 2013. Nearly 60% of US cases have occurred since December 2013 with a peak number of cases to date in the months of February, March, and April 2014. In less than 24 months, this disease has caused the loss of an estimated 7 to 8 million animals. As a result of these losses, hog markets have surged to record highs.
How did the disease get here? No one is sure of its entry point, but allied industries and many other organizations have committed time and resources to better understand this disease, its means of transmission, and its possible entry points.
One of the biggest tools in combating the spread has been the renewed focus on biosecurity along all points—on the farm, feed transportation and ingredients, and live animal transportation.
In an article earlier this summer, Steve Meyers of Paragon Economics noted that there were three long term issues to address regarding PEDv: “First, will a vaccine become available? That would be best but, historically, consistently effective vaccines for coronaviruses have been difficult to make. Second, will management practices (biosecurity, cleaning, control of other possible vectors such as feed ingredients, etc.) improve enough to control PEDv? Finally, at what point will the industry decide that the supply shortages can only be overcome by expanding the sow herd? That will obviously be a critical juncture as it will involve substantial capital outlays and set the stage for large supplies should a PEDv solution be subsequently found.”
While a vaccine has been approved, the results have been mixed on the efficacy of the product in the field. Enhanced focus on biosecurity and management practices has led to a decrease in the number of weekly accessions in the US herd. There has not been a significant increase in expansion or herd size, possibly due to capital requirements from hedging margin calls to this point.
The industry continues to focus on the things it can control via management practices, and various affiliated industries are working hard and funding veterinary research as well as other possible vector and transmission focused research projects.