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Pow Wows, or
The Long Lost Friend

The Pennsylvania Dutch
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This little piggie:
PEDv swine virus hits Pennsylvania

State regulators don't know the extent of the
highly contagious pig disease because the hog industry
doesn't want the government involved

by Bill Keisling


Porcine Epidemic Diarrhea virus, or PEDv, is spreading rapidly across Pennsylvania, as well as other U.S. states, agriculture industry insiders says.

Even so, the extent of the disease's spread in Pennsylvania is not known.

The Pennsylvania Department of Agriculture to date is not required to regulate or keep tabs on the disease, says Nicole Bucher, deputy press secretary of the department.

"It's not a disease that we're able to track," Bucher says. "In order for us to track a disease the legislature would have to empower us to do so."

Yardbird has been told, anecdotally, that four central Pennsylvania counties, including Perry and Juniata counties, have seen PEDv outbreaks.

The disease is caused by a coronavirus that produces severe and highly contagious diarrhea in hogs. The virus is found only in swine, and is nearly always fatal to young piglets. Older hogs spread the disease, but often survive its symptoms. Humans aren't sickened by the PEDv coronavirus.

PEDv has been known in Europe since the 1970s. The current strain affecting American hogs is "very similar to a strain (reported from) China in 2012," according to the trade journal National Hog Farmer. The disease was first diagnosed in the U.S. in May 2013, the trade journal reports.

Since then, PEDv has swept across North America. The disease to date had been found in 27 U.S. states and four Canadian provinces, and 13 Mexican states, according to a report issued today by agribusiness analyst Rabobank. The report is titled, This Little Piggy Cried P-E-D-v All the Way Home: Estimating the Impacts of PEDv in North America.

Dr. David Griswold, assistant state veterinarian with Pennsylvania Department of Agriculture, says, "We are not regulating this disease. It's not a simple situation. The swine industry is dealing with it."

Even though the disease is spreading rapidly, the hog industry has asked federal and state regulators not to get involved, Griswold says.

"The swine industry has gone to state and federal agencies and said 'we can manage this, and we don't want you to regulate this.'  The USDA is not even asking the states to regulate it," Griswold says.

"It's a disease that doesn't lend itself to regulation all that well," Griswold says.

In Pennsylvania, the Domestic Animal Act gives the state the authority to respond to transmissible diseases in farm animals, Griswold explains.

Livestock diseases like foot and mouth disease often require quarantines, and the killing of individual animals, or sometimes the killing of entire herds to contain a disease.

An Iowa animal pharmaceutical company announced in February that it had shipped 770,000 doses of PEDv vaccine.

But hogs also acquire natural immunity to the disease once they've recovered from it. PEDv is nearly always fatal to a suckling pig, but a weaned piglet has a much better chance of recovery.

The hog industry doesn't want farms quarantined, or animals destroyed, Griswold says.

Once the piglets are several weeks old they become more resistant to PEDv, Griswold adds. "After that, they may only be mildly affected."

PEDv is "spread by humans and vehicles," he says. "So there's no point in quarantining. You can't quarantine humans and vehicles."

Instead, he says, the hog industry is attempting to control the spread of PEDv using voluntary "biosecurity measures."

But those measures don't appear to be working.

Rabobank wrote that it expects to see a 6 to 7 percent decline in U.S. pork production in 2014 due to the spreading disease.

Meanwhile, spring and summer hog futures have surged $10 to $14 per hundredweight, reports.

"We would hate to see it get so bad that the industries comes to us," Griswold says. "It's certainly going to cause a short term decrease in the number of swine going to slaughter. And it's certainly going to increase the price of hogs."

"The real winner in the PEDv situation, however, will be the US poultry industry," Rabobank reports. "With US beef production forecast to decline by nearly 6% in 2014 which, coupled with Rabobank’s estimate of 6-7% less pork production, implies an exceptional opportunity for the US chicken industry as the protein of last resort."

Agriculture is the No. 1 business in Pennsylvania.

Antigenic shift

In the early twentieth century, swine flu apparently mutated from a disease of pigs to a virulent viral strain infecting humans, causing a worldwide pandemic that is believed to have killed 50 to 100 million people.

There's no reason to suspect that PEDv will, or could, mutate into a coronaviruses harmful to humans.

"Most of these coronaviruses usually infect only one animal species or, at most, a small number of closely related species," the the Centers for Disease Control (CDC) reports.

Still, it's foolhardy for the state, at the behest of big ag-business, to not even keep tabs on the startling spread of this disease.

"Some coronaviruses, like the one that caused SARS, can infect people and animals," the CDC explains.

"The SARS outbreak in 2002 was believed to be caused by a new type of coronavirus that was similar to the one that affects cats," the website summarizes. "Due to its contagious nature, SARS became a world epidemic, spreading to 32 countries and infecting 8,459 people. Many of the people who contracted SARS also developed pneumonia, and over 800 people died as a result of SARS." warns, "Flu viruses constantly change and mutate. Sometimes these mutations result in viruses that move from animals to humans. ... Flu viruses are constantly changing and mutating. These changes can happen slowly over time or suddenly.

"Antigenic drift is when these changes happen slowly over time. These changes happen often enough that your immune system can’t recognize the flu virus from year to year. That is why you need to get a new flu vaccine each year. The flu vaccine protects you against that season’s three or four most common flu virus strains.

"Antigenic shift is when changes happen suddenly. This occurs when two different flu strains infect the same cell and combine. This may create a new flu subtype. Because people have little or no immunity to the new subtype, it can cause a very severe flu epidemic or pandemic."



-- posted March 25, 2014

National Ag Day

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