Swine meeting attempts to squelch PEDv rumors

Tuesday, March 18, 2014

Nevada Daily Mail

Vernon County commercial pig producers and swine exhibitors met under one roof Wednesday evening for a briefing on PEDv in the region.

The virus, which affects only swine, causes high mortality rates among piglets and is easily transferable between pigs and farms.

Everett Forkner, a Richards, Mo., swine producer and director of the Missouri Pork Association, hosted the meeting to educate those who work with hogs in Vernon County.

"Right now, it's pretty much at epidemic proportions," Forkner said. "One of the biggest things we're concerned about is how it got here."

As of Wednesday, Arizona became the 27th state to have laboratory confirmed cases of PEDv. Missouri now has 71 confirmed cases, paling in comparison to Iowa, which has more than 1,500 cases.

Forkner said the swine meeting was held to squelch rumors and share more information on slowing down the spread of PEDv. Brian Anderson, a field representative for the National Swine Registry and show feed specialist, paired with Forkner to explain the ramifications of the virus.

Anderson, whose work includes daily examination of hogs around the country, said that while PEDv is causing major problems, hog showers and producers shouldn't panic.

"I don't think this is much different than TGE was 20 years ago," Anderson said. Transmissible gastroenteritis, also known as TGE, was a similar swine virus that caused death in piglets. TGE rapidly spread through hog farms, and like PEDv, thrived in cold weather.

Anderson said social media and constant communication through email and text messaging have made the spread of PEDv seem worse than TGE because farmers can discuss hog loss more easily.

But, unlike TGE, the current hog virus does not leave infected pigs with immunity. Anderson said pigs that have recovered from PEDv could become infected again.

"We're not far enough into infected herds to figure out if this will be a continual problem," he said.

Fortunately, Anderson said, survival rates for pigs that come down with PEDv are higher than with TGE.

"If pigs get to 10-days-old, generally, they'll be OK and will make it through," he said. At that point, Anderson suggests weaning piglets, and putting them on fluids and electrolytes instead of milk replacers.

Agricultural economist Steve Meyer, who works with the National Pork Board, estimated earlier this week that more than 5 million piglets have died within the past few months. Since January, an estimated 1.3 million piglets have succumbed to PEDv.

Forkner said the impact of PEDv is being felt more for commercial pork producers than any other group of swine handlers. He said the economic loss within the pork industry is a major concern.

Anderson said that losses are expected to cause more financial impact for commercial farms versus small-scale swine handlers and showers.

"It's been a little more prevalent on the commercial side. Why is that? Larger numbers," Anderson said.

Those commercial losses have pushed swine organizations to assist in research. In June, the National Pork Board spent $400,000 in PEDv research. Last week, the board approved an additional $650,000. A recent collaboration with Genome Alberta, a Canadian research company, has poured $500,000 into pork research that could benefit farmers on both sides of the border.

New insight to PEDv spread

Forkner and Anderson discussed new information on how PEDv is spreading across the country. While PEDv was known to spread through contact with contaminated fecal matter, Anderson said that the virus -- which has three strains -- can also spread through the air and hog semen.

Anderson said that the virus could infect young hogs through piglet feed, which contains high amounts of blood plasma.

A recent study by the Canadian Food Inspection Agency researched the possible spread of PEDv through feed confirmed the virus existing in feed ingredients imported from the U.S., but could not confirm a link between consumption and sickness.

In the U.S., representatives from feed companies nationwide will be meeting on March 21 in Des Moines, Iowa, to discuss blood plasma and PEDv in feed.

As for vaccination, both swine experts said it's unlikely that one will be on the market soon, even though several vaccines are in trial phases.

"If we can get it by next spring, we'll be lucky," Anderson said.

Anderson said that more information on the virus should be known within the next month, as data becomes available on the first herds that came down with PEDv. But in the meantime, education on what is known is a necessity.

"We've got to be advocates and teachers. We've got to squelch the rumors," he said.

Part of that advocacy is increasing bio-security measures for all swine handlers in the area.

Forkner suggested creating lines of demarcation on hog farms, separating clean and dirty areas, and keeping all equipment and clothing used and worn in particular areas to avoid cross-contamination. Disinfectants such as Synergize and Clorox have been determined to kill the virus.

As Missouri enters swine showing season, many counties are suspending April weigh-ins for pigs. Vernon County does not host a spring weigh in, but modifications to how swine sales are held will vary by farm.

Anderson told meeting attendees concerned about contamination at hog shows that there's little to be done to prevent catching the virus. He recommended examining hogs daily, maintaining clean enclosures, sterilizing clothing and equipment, and being aware of PEDv symptoms.

To avoid a panic about a possibly contaminated hog, Anderson said pig producers should be aware of all symptoms: vomiting, loose stools, reclusion and refusal to eat. When a pig exhibits several or all of these symptoms, Anderson said it's time to have a discussion with the hog's owner about PEDv and to contact a vet.

"We need to work with our vets. That's the only person who can help you get through this," Anderson said.

At this time, there has been no statewide move to make swine shows terminal to prevent PEDv spread. If that designation were to occur, it would be the call of the state veterinarian and could happen at any time.

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