UPDATE 1-U.S. pig virus cases see biggest weekly rise since discovery

Thu Jan 30, 2014 3:22pm EST

By Meredith Davis
    Jan 30 (Reuters) - Confirmed cases of a deadly pig virus
spreading across the U.S. Hog Belt jumped by 215 to its highest
weekly increase since it was discovered in the country in April
2013, according to USDA's National Animal Health Laboratory
Network.
    NAHLN announced the rise in cases of Porcine Epidemic
Diarrhea virus (PEDv) on Wednesday. Each diagnostic case as
defined by U.S. Department of Agriculture (USDA) could represent
multiple animals at either a single farm site or several
locations. 
    PEDv, which causes diarrhea, vomiting and severe
dehydration, is transmitted orally and through pig feces, but
does not affect humans. Older pigs have a chance of survival,
but the virus kills 80 to 100 percent of piglets that contract
it.
    The virus has led to increasing costs for hogs, and at least
one major maker of pork products has said it hurt the company's
bottom line. 
    The chief financial officer for Hillshire Brands Co,
the Chicago-based maker of Jimmy Dean sausages and Ball Park hot
dogs, said on Thursday during a conference call on
second-quarter earnings that input costs were higher than
expected partly due to increased sow prices. Average prices for
live sows rose nearly 28 percent in the last year, according to
U.S. Department of Agriculture data.
    "We watch very closely the number of new reported cases and
we're very hopeful that one of the vaccines that are being
developed will work," CFO Maria Henry said during the call. 
    Chicago Mercantile Exchange lean hog futures deferred month
contracts have risen on concerns the virus will decimate summer
hog supplies. On Thursday, CME June hogs hit a contract
high of 103.450 cents per lb, up 18 percent from the contract
low in March 2013 before the virus broke. 
    As of Dec 1. 2013, USDA data showed the nation's hog herd at
65.9 million head, down 1 percent from the previous year.
Analysts attributed much of the loss to the spread of the fatal
virus. 
    The total number of confirmed cases has increased to 2,692
in 23 states as of the week that ended on Jan. 25. Nearly 40
percent of the cases -- 1,006 -- were confirmed in Iowa, the top
U.S. pork producing state. ()
 
    There are no official figures for pigs lost to PEDv but up
to 4 million pigs may have died from the virus, according to
industry analyst estimates. Additionally, the virus was
confirmed in Canada last week.
    PEDv had spread to a fourth farm in the Canadian province of
Ontario, the provincial government said on Wednesday, despite
the industry efforts to stop it by disinfecting delivery trucks
and clothing used on farms. 
    PEDv has forced the U.S. hog industry to increase its
biosecurity measures and has fueled concerns supplies will slump
in the spring and summer.