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Pigs Thought To Be Immune Reinfected By Fatal Virus

Porcine Epidemic Diarrhea virus has killed up to 7 million pigs and could boost the price of pork by 12 percent.

hog farm

Photo: United Soybean Board (Flickr)

Porcine Epidemic Diarrhea is particularly fatal to piglets.

A hog farm in southeastern Indiana is experiencing a second outbreak of a virus that’s fatal to pigs.

Porcine Epidemic Diarrhea virus or PEDv has already killed as many as 7 million pigs nationwide, including farms in 45 Indiana counties, and the repeat occurrence indicates the virus is still a major threat to the industry and is likely to increase pork prices.

The Indiana farm’s owners don’t want to be identified, but they’ve authorized their veterinarian Matt Ackerman to speak on their behalf.

He told Reuters veterinarians originally thought once hogs had been exposed to the virus, they would be immune from it for at least three years.

Ackerman said he did not know why the female pigs, or sows, on the Indiana farm were re-infected after being exposed to the virus during the original outbreak last year. At the time, they were about six months to a year old. The sows are having piglets and passing limited immunity on to their offspring, he said.

The farm “does an excellent job of sanitation,” he said. “That’s why it’s so hard to figure out why they’re struggling with it.”

The repeat case of PEDv in Indiana puts to rest gossip about a re-break in the state that has passed from one Midwest farmer to another for weeks. Producers are on edge because no vaccine has yet been able to completely protect pigs from the disease.

And that means shoppers can expect higher pork prices in the grocery store. Meat prices are already relatively high and pork prices could rise by another 12 percent, according to the National Pork Producers Council.

Indiana Pork Board Executive Director Josh Trenary says there are positives and negatives associated with that.

“We’ve seen prices on the upswing, which for the farmers that are incurring the major losses, that’s actually good because it’s helping them get by. On the other hand, it’s bad for the consumer and long term that’s bad for the industry if we’re higher priced in the meat case,” Trenary says.

Trenary says one benefit of the virus is that it is not known to infect humans or the quality of the pork meat.

He adds that he has heard of other cases where hogs have been re-infected by PEDv, but Reuters reports the Indiana case is the first to publicly acknowledge they have experienced a repeat outbreak.

Indiana is the fifth largest pork producer in the nation, bringing in more than $1 billion in gross state product, according to the National Pork Producers Council.

Gretchen Frazee

Gretchen Frazee is a reporter/producer for WFIU and WTIU news. Prior to her current role, Frazee worked as the associate online content coordinator for WFIU/WTIU. She graduated from the University of Missouri-Columbia where she studied multimedia journalism and anthropology. You can follow her on Twitter @gretchenfrazee.

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