First reported in the spring of 2013, porcine epidemic diarrhea virus (PEDv) has marched through much of the U.S. hog industry. The numbers are alarming -- some 5 million pigs in 27 states having been lost in less than a year.

Understandably, states yet to have a case of PEDv are keen to keep it that way.

“This is a fairly new virus to the United States,” says Jeremy Powell, University of Arkansas Animal Science Department, associate professor and veterinarian. “That isn’t the case with (PEDv) in other parts of the world. It’s a coronavirus that’s been in Europe and China before. The strain affecting U.S. swine is believed to have originated in China.

“We have been testing for the virus in Arkansas. Luckily, we currently do not have any PEDv cases reported in the state. However, it is in some bordering states with the highest number of cases in Oklahoma – 300, or so, (in mid-March).”

Powell says the virus appears to be moving across the United States in a “somewhat sporadic manner. It can certainly move via animal-to-animal contact. There are questions about how easily it can move on equipment -- truck tires or feed machines. Some viruses can also move via migratory birds. So, there are still some questions about PEDv movement.”

While there are vaccinations being developed, there is yet to be a licensed vaccination for PEDv.

“Typically, under such outbreaks, vaccines are rushed to market when companies get a conditional license from the FDA,” says Powell. “That’s what happened with West Nile a decade back with horses.”

PEDv is most devastating is with young, nursing pigs. Almost all infected piglets less than two weeks of age will die.

“A coronavirus is the type that likes epithelial tissue. So, it attacks the intestinal tissue and kind of wipes out the pigs’ microvilli. That leads to diarrhea, scours, and can cause a fairly high mortality rate in nursing pigs. It can also lead to mortality of pigs in the nurseries.

“It flat-out kills a lot of pigs. It’s so deadly because it causes severe dehydration and electrolyte imbalances.”