Even though porcine epidemic diarrhea virus (PEDv) was first found in the U.S. last April, the disease has caused losses in swine herds nationwide and is expected to impact the availability of pork products and prices in 2014, according to swine experts at Ohio State University's College of Food, Agricultural and Environmental Sciences.
PEDv has spread to 27 states, including Ohio, despite efforts to combat the disease, the American Association of Swine Veterinarians said.
"New herds are being infected daily throughout the country, so it's likely we will see infections in populations not previously exposed to the virus the rest of this year," said Steve Moeller, an Ohio State University Extension swine specialist. OSU Extension is the outreach arm of the college.
A member of the coronavirus family, PEDv causes intestinal disease in swine of all ages and high mortality in young pigs - especially pre-weaned pigs, for which mortality is almost 100 percent. The virus is transmitted via contaminated feces.
PEDv has been difficult to identify because its symptoms - vomiting, diarrhea, poor appetite, dehydration and depression - are almost identical to transmissible gastroenteritis virus, another coronavirus that sickens pigs. The only way to distinguish between the viruses is laboratory testing.
"This virus is persistent and difficult to contain," Moeller said. "Even in swine operations that are very biosecure, animals are still getting infected.
"Trying to pinpoint how it's moved from farm to farm is still an issue that needs to be resolved. Also, hot summers and cold winters do not seem to be affecting the virus much."
Still, Moeller said, strict biosecurity measures are the best way to prevent transmission among herds and reduce losses, since vaccines have yet to be developed.
"The best recommendation for producers is to clean, clean, clean," Moeller said. "Facilities need to be as clean as possible and proper disinfection needs to be done often to prevent the spread, and reduce viral loads in affected herds, even if the virus has been present before.
"We still don't know enough about immunity protection in previously exposed herds, and it appears that protection may not be long lasting, meaning herds can re-break."
Moeller added that swine producers need to understand and regulate the flow of traffic in their facilities to minimize the risk of infection.
PEDv does not sicken humans and does not impact the safety of pork products. However, the virus has contributed to a reduction in the number of pigs projected to come to market this year, Moeller said.
"Recent projections indicate that PEDv may have reduced the U.S. market hog supply by more than 5 million pigs in the past six to eight months, coupled with a normal production decline due to seasonal issues with fertility," he said. "This decline is likely to continue through summer.
"Some packers have indicated they may not slaughter five days a week in coming months, when it can be common to operate a six-day week. There are fewer pigs, so prices at the producer level are already showing significant increases, which are likely going to show up in the retail case as well."
The risk of PEDv spread is also likely to impact swine exhibitions at state and county fairs.
"Producers showing animals at fairs need to be caution about what they drive, wear and bring back to the farm," Moeller said. "I suspect some individuals will not take the risk of showing pigs this year. But in this business there's always a risk, and we can't simply live in a bubble."