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Flu Like-Hog Virus Sweeping Indiana

Last updated on Tuesday, March 25, 2014

(UNDATED) - A fast-moving virus that has infected hogs across half of the nation since it was first detected in the U.S. less than a year ago has become rampant in Indiana, agriculture officials say.

Porcine epidemic diarrhea virus, or PED, has infected farms in 43 of Indiana's 92 counties, according to March 14 data from the Indiana State Board of Animal Health. Twenty-six other states have reported cases of the virus as of March 12, the National Animal Health Laboratory Network indicates.

While the flu-like sickness doesn't affect people and is not a food safety concern, it can kill 80 percent or more of newborn piglets.

"The pig's only source of food is the momma sow, and she's got the virus in her so it's all in her milk," Sam Moffitt, pork production manager at Kewanna-based Northwind Pork LLC, told the Logansport Pharos-Tribune.

Northwind, which operates three sow barns weaning about 250,000 pigs per year, has had to wean some piglets as young as 8 days old off their sows to keep them from dehydrating. Normally, piglets are weaned at 18 to 21 days old.

Purdue Extension veterinarian Darryl Ragland said the virus is nearly almost always fatal in pigs up until they're about a week old. Older pigs may develop diarrhea and vomiting and grow gaunt, but won't usually die, he said.

However, David Baumert D.V.M. Staff Veterinarian with Pork BU says, PED (Porcine Epidemic Diarrhea) virus does not causes a 'flu-like' disease. PED virus causes a severe diarrhea, not a respiratory disease.

Secondly, PED virus reproduces in the cells lining the intestinal tract. Damage to these intestinal cells during virus reproduction causes the development of a severe diarrhea and subsequent spreading of the virus wherever the diarrhea material contacts.

The virus "in a sow" is not "all in her milk"; rather, it is all in the intestinal tract and it gets spread to everywhere the sow's diarrhea contacts, including her pen, her litter, and any associated equipment.

Failure to recognize that the diarrhea is the source of virus spread will result in failure to recognize the primary method of disease spread. Control of PED virus must include controlling the movement of infected pigs, contaminated trucks, and contaminated equipment, including employee boots, clothing, vehicles, etc.

Uncertainty over losses has helped send hog futures soaring. Prices for spring and summer contracts have reached $112 per hundredweight for the March-through-August season, up from an average of $88 per hundredweight for the same period last year, Purdue data indicates.

Purdue economist Chris Hurt said the price hike might actually increase the economic returns for the nation's hog industry, at least for those farms that escape heavy losses.

PED was thought to exist only in Europe and China before states began reporting the virus in April. Officials confirmed its presence in May.

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