The 2014 World Pork Expo wrapped up last week after three days of educational seminars, discussions on hot industry topics, swine shows, and ample amounts of tasty pork at the Iowa State Fairgrounds in Des Moines. At last year's Expo, one of the key topics, the emergence of porcine epidemic diarrhea virus, or PEDV in the U.S. swine herd, was just showing up on the radar for pork producers and ag journalists alike, myself included. A year later, industry officials, veterinarians, and producers discussed key learnings from the past year, as well as new issues at hand.
From the time the virus first showed up in the U.S. up until mid-June, 7,250 positive accessions had been reported in a total of 30 states, according to the National Animal Health Laboratory Network, or NAHLN. Pork industry officials estimate the number of pigs killed from the virus to be around 7 to 8 million, most of them piglets, which are most susceptible. That's roughly 10% of the U.S. pig population. Also alarming is the fact that some farms have been re-infected after going negative.
The number of accessions is declining with warmer weather, when the virus isn't as prevalent. However, in the back of pork producers' minds is that when winter arrives, it will likely bring with it an increase in cases.
In addition, two new threats are on the radar – a second strain of PEDV, and porcine deltacoronavirus, or PDCoV, both of which show similar symptoms to the original strain of PEDV, but are reportedly less severe.
The importance of research and diagnostic testing
Anytime the Secretary of Agriculture makes an appearance, it's sure to draw a crowd. Thursday's luncheon in the Varied Industries Building, when Secretary Vilsack announced $26.2 million in USDA funding to help combat these diseases, was no exception. The funding accompanies a previous announcement of USDA's PEDV reporting plan, and emphasizes six areas, including $2.4 million toward diagnostic testing, and $1.5 million to NAHLN diagnostic laboratories for genomic sequencing for newly positive herds.
From the conversations I had with veterinarians and other industry experts, it's clear that anything that helps support diagnostic testing, and therefore helps identify the different viruses that are entering the U.S., is welcome. This information gives a better understanding of whether the original strain changed or a separate strain entered at a later point in time – which is the general academic consensus on the second strain of PEDV.
However, with these three viruses in the U.S., the big question on everyone's mind is how did they get here? The concern is, with the amount of diseases that are outside the U.S., it's of the utmost importance to find the window and close it.