(Update adds World Animal Health Organisation reaction)
By Sybille de La Hamaide
PARIS, June 18 U.S. Agriculture Secretary Tom
Vilsack said on Wednesday he was confident a vaccine approved
this week by the U.S. administration would help fight a deadly
virus which has killed millions of pigs in the United States.
The U.S. Department of Agriculture said on Wednesday
preliminary studies of a vaccine developed by Harrisvaccines
"have been promising" in controlling Porcine Epidemic Diarrhea
virus (PEDv). The virus has killed up to 8 million pigs and
pushed pork prices to record highs since it was first identified
in the United States last year.
"I don't want to say the virus will be eradicated but I
think you will see we're on the other side of this," Vilsack
said after a speech to representatives of the French farm sector
at the U.S. embassy in Paris.
He added that warmer temperatures over the summer would
weaken the virus, while systematic notification by farmers of
new PEDv cases and higher biosecurity measures at farms will
help in the fight against PEDv.
Vilsack ordered farmers earlier this month to start
reporting cases of the deadly pig virus and pledged over $26
million in funding to combat the virus, pushing back against
criticism of his handling of the outbreak.
Harrisvaccines' product is the first to win U.S. Department
of Agriculture conditional approval, which means it can be sold
over the counter but the company must continue to test its
"Hopefully by the end of the year we will be in a situation
where we can say 'yes, folks, (the vaccine) works', start
producing mass quantities of it so that farm producers around
the world will not have to worry about this," Vilsack said.
He said the virus, which causes diarrhoea and vomiting and
is nearly always lethal to baby piglets, was a global issue and
not just a U.S. problem. PEDv has been found in other countries
including Japan, Canada and Mexico.
The crisis and the severity of the virus have disrupted
international pig trading, with 11 countries or regions,
including Russia, the European Union, China and Japan limiting
imports of live hogs.
The head of the Paris-based World Animal Health Organisation
OIE, who met Vilsack earlier in the day, welcomed the new
vaccine and said there were indications the virus, which has
wiped out an estimated 10 percent of U.S. pigs, was subsiding in
"We have the feeling that it's settling down in the United
States and Canada. It's going in the right direction," Bernard
Vallat told Reuters by phone.
"The fact that (the vaccine) successfully passed the tests
to be authorised is good news," he said.
However, he said that further tests would need to be done on
whether there is a risk that vaccinated animals can continue to
be contagious without being sick.
Vilsack is on a European tour this week which started in
Luxembourg and Brussels. Discussions there focused on the
U.S.-European Union Transatlantic Trade and Investment
Partnership (TTIP), which he insisted should sweep away
"non-scientific barriers" to U.S. sales.
(Reporting by Sybille de La Hamaide; Editing by Keiron
Henderson and Greg Mahlich)