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Spreading to Canada, Pig Disease Shows No Sign of Retreat

Posted: Feb. 6, 2014, 6:05 p.m. EST

A deadly virus that has long been a stain on pig farms in Europe and Asia has spread to 23 states and Canada just nine months after its first appearance in North America.

The American Association of Swine Veterinarians reported 2,962 confirmed cases of porcine epidemic diarrhea virus (PEDv) as of early February. Canadian authorities counted a handful of cases in Ontario and Quebec.

The Iowa State University Veterinary Diagnostic Laboratory on Jan. 30 stated that it had identified a second strain of PEDv, and the swine practitioners group warned that a third strain may be emerging.

The virus is spread orally through feces and is transmitted to herds on trucks, boots, clothing and pigs, Iowa State reported. At least 1 million U.S. pigs are estimated to have died from the highly contagious disease.

PEDv is a coronavirus related to transmissible gastroenteritis virus (TGEv), Iowa State noted. The primary symptom in pigs of all ages is severe diarrhea, and the death rate in suckling and early weaned pigs ranges from 30 to 100 percent.

The survival rate is bleak for piglets diagnosed with PEDv.
While TGEv vaccines are not effective against PEDv, attenuated live vaccines designed to fight PEDv have shown mixed results in Asia, the lab stated.

One U.S. manufacturer, Harrisvaccines of Ames, Iowa, introduced what it called the "only line of defense against this disease”—a vaccine called iPED+—in August. The company has sold more than 800,000 doses to U.S. farmers and in early February was preparing to export 150,000 doses to Canada after the Canadian Food Inspection Agency (CFIA) issued an emergency permit.

"We are working closely with the CFIA and helping veterinarians apply for permits to import our vaccine,” said Joel Harris, head of sales and marketing.

"We have the capacity to produce much more and will adjust as the situation continues to evolve,” Harris added.  

The disease, first discovered in England in 1971, poses no threat to people and does not contaminate pork products, experts stated.

PEDv cases are confirmed through polymerase chain reaction (PCR) testing of pig feces or intestines or by immunohistochemistry on formalin-fixed intestine, Iowa State reported.

Virucidal disinfectants may be used to inactivate the virus. In addition, "Sanitizing and drying or heating pig trailers is effective against PEDv,” the Iowa Pork Industry Center stated.

"Temperatures above 150 degrees Fahrenheit for more than 10 minutes will inactivate the virus,” the organization added. "Complete drying after sanitizing is also an effective inactivation method.”

Also investigating the disease is the University of Minnesota College of Veterinary Medicine, which in late January reported the development of its second PEDv diagnostic test. The enzyme-linked immunosorbent assay (ELISA) herd surveillance test, which followed the introduction of a rapid detection test, is available through the university’s Veterinary Diagnostic Laboratory at a cost of about $15 per sample.

"We understand PEDv can result in significant health and financial blows, even putting farmers at risk of bankruptcy,” said the university’s Michael Murtaugh, Ph.D., an expert in swine disease eradication. "We’re committed to providing the industry with ongoing science-driven solutions to this major problem. The swine industry has asked for our help, and we will continue putting in additional hours until the problem is solved.”


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