Good biosecurity vital to prevent PEDV

Swine producers continue to fight back against the arrival of porcine epidemic diarrhea virus (PEDV) that hit the U.S. in mid-May.

It’s the first time the disease has been reported in the U.S., according to the U.S. Department of Agriculture (USDA).

PEDV is not a reportable or regulatory disease, rather it is a production-related disease, which means it can cause production losses for the producer rather than illness that affects public health. Production losses can be severe – the disease has an 80 to 100 percent morbidity and mortality rate among neonatal piglets, USDA notes. Mortality tends to decrease as age increases.

The disease was first reported in the United Kingdom in 1971. It has been found in the several other countries in Europe and Asia. Pigs infected with PEDV, which is transmitted through a fecal-oral route or via fomites in the pigs’ environment (e.g., boots, brushes, buckets, etc.), may show varying symptoms, including diarrhea, vomiting and dehydration. Recovery, if possible, can take a week to 10 days.  PEDV doesn’t affect the safety of pork. The virus also is not transmissible to humans.

Unfortunately, PEDV is often difficult to distinguish from transmissible gastroenteritis (TGE); in fact, the only way to differentiate between the two is via lab tests, according to the USDA. There also is not a treatment for PEDV – rather, producers should focus on prevention and control. If a herd becomes infected, treat the symptoms of the illness (e.g., providing free access to water to prevent dehydration),  according to the Michigan State University Extension.

The U.S. swine herd is in a particularly vulnerable spot when it comes to PEDV – since the virus is new to the states, U.S. pigs have no natural immunity. PEDV is the latest blow to hit the U.S. pork industry following Russia and China’s ban on pork exports derived from animals given the feed additive ractopamine. In 2011, the U.S. pork industry exported about $5.32 billion in products and produced 22.8 billion pounds of pork, according to USDA figures.

The industry is taking the threat seriously – earlier this month, the National Pork Board approved $450,000 toward PEDV research. When coupled with funds from the Iowa Pork Producers Association’s research committee, the two groups have put $527,000 into the research, according to Pork Checkoff.

Prevention and biosecurity

The best way to prevent a herd from becoming infected with PEDV is to ramp up biosecurity and ensure that all protocols are followed, without exception. This includes proper cleaning and disinfecting methods not only for the pigs’ environment but also incoming trucks and trailers, minimizing who has access to the animals (tracking who has access and when), and proper separation techniques.

  • Cleaning and disinfection: All rooms should be cleaned using high pressure water along with a cleaner (which breaks down dirt and debris) and a disinfectant (which kills bacterial and viral pathogens). Removing dirt and debris is vital as it allows the disinfectant to work properly (water alone won’t do). An example of a broad spectrum virucide is Virkon S (read more here). Trucks and trailers also should be thoroughly cleaned and disinfected along with fomites and other objects the pigs may encounter.
  • Movement: Limit the number of people who have access to pigs. Work in a top-down manner; that is, work with the youngest and most susceptible pigs first, then proceed to older animals with heartier immune systems. (University of Missouri Extension).
  • Pest control:  Rodents and other pests have no place in a biosecure facility. Discuss the best methods for pest control with a veterinarian or a product supplier. (For more on Neogen’s rotational baiting program, click here.)
  • Quarantine: When introducing new animals to a facility, the incoming animals should be quarantined for an appropriate amount of time (check with your veterinarian).

If you suspect your herd may be infected with PEDV, contact your veterinarian immediately.

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