CHICAGO Feb 20 As the U.S. hog industry
struggles to contain a virus killing million of pigs across the
country, the U.S. Department of Agriculture warned on Thursday
that the impact on the hog supply would be greater than
Montana and Idaho became the latest in 25 U.S. states and 3
Canadian provinces to report confirmed cases of the Porcine
Epidemic Diarrhea virus, or PEDv. That brings the total
confirmed cases in the U.S. to 3,528 as of Saturday, up from
2,962 as of Feb. 1, according to data released Wednesday by
USDA's National Animal Health Laboratory Network (NAHLN).
USDA defines each diagnostic case as multiple animals at a
single farm site or at several locations. The latest data showed
that the number of weekly confirmed cases decreased slightly
from a high of 301 in the week of Feb 2.
Although PEDv does not affect humans and is not a food
safety risk, the virus's toll on pigs is trickling up the food
chain in the form of industry financial losses and potentially
higher pork prices for consumers.
"Mortality rates due to PEDv have been highest among young
piglets, which have curtailed the growth in the number of pigs
per litter and will likely slow expansion," USDA's chief
economist Joseph Glauber said during the agency's annual outlook
conference in Washington.
Older pigs have a chance of survival, but the virus kills 80
to 100 percent of piglets that contract it.
Some U.S. meat companies have said that the virus is driving
up hog prices and cutting the pork supply by 2 to 4 percent. In
the United States, the world's largest pork exporter with a 65.9
million head hog herd, retail pork prices still hover near
record highs, and losses due to the virus are expected to keep
boosting hog futures prices.
Analysts and traders have estimated up to 4 million pigs
died from the virus, but the hog industry does not have an
official death toll. The virus is reported voluntarily, so it
could affect more states than has been documented, said Tom
Burkgren, executive director at the American Association of
FEED EYED AS VIRUS CARRIER
PEDv causes diarrhea, vomiting and severe dehydration in
pigs. Research by the U.S. hog industry determined it is spread
orally through infected pig manure, and can be carried by
trucks, boots, clothes and water.
But feed containing porcine by-products, including but not
limited to plasma, recently came into focus as a means of
transmission. The Canadian Food Inspection Agency (CFIA) found
the virus in samples of U.S.-origin plasma from a third-party
manufacturer for Grand Valley Fortifiers, a livestock feed
company based in the province of Ontario. The company recalled
"If there was some way that that feed got contaminated, we
need to find out how that happened, whether there was a
breakdown in normal procedures, or whether normal procedures
need to be changed," David Meeker, senior vice president of
scientific services at the National Renderers Association in
Virginia said in an interview on Thursday. "All those things are
being considered, but we just can not do much without more
THE RACE FOR VACCINES
The U.S. hog industry has relied heavily on biosecurity
measures as a means to curtail the spread of PEDv as
pharmaceutical companies work to develop vaccines.
Harrisvaccines, an Ames, Iowa-based animal health
pharmaceutical company, was among the first companies to develop
a vaccine for the deadly pig virus. The company has 100,000 to
150,000 doses reserved for shipment to Canada.
"We're doing some efficacy studies in our lab facilities and
those should be completed mid-March, then we should have some
data," said Joel Harris, Harrisvaccines' marketing director
regarding the success rate of the vaccine.
Research institutions have partnered with animal health
companies to develop vaccinations. Zoetis Inc announced
a partnership with Iowa State University this month. Merck
Animal Health, a division of Merck & Co., also entered
into a 12-month research agreement with Utrecht University to
develop a vaccine.
(Editing by Amanda Kwan)