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.”

New regulations

Prompted by the quick spread of the virus, Arkansas has made import regulation changes.

“The new rules are an attempt to minimize the likelihood of the virus entering our borders,” says Powell. “Now, any pigs being brought into Arkansas must be inspected by a veterinarian followed by a health certificate. Also, there must be a statement provided by the veterinarian saying that the pigs are traveling from a site that hasn’t had a PEDv case in the last 60 days.”

The state of Arkansas must then be called and an entry permit number must be issued for the health certificate.

“So, the veterinarian has to call the Arkansas Livestock and Poultry Commission and say, ‘I’ve got 100 pigs coming on X date. I need an entry permit number.’

“Those steps will help us better track pigs coming in from other states that may have infected herds. This way we’ll know the address of where the pigs come from, the address of where the pigs are going to in Arkansas and have a better ability to stop any type of outbreak.”

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Unlike poultry and cattle, swine production isn’t a huge commercial industry in Arkansas. However, there are some swine operations “and they’re certainly concerned about PEDv.”

One of the concerns with PEDv at this time of year is the beginning of 4-H projects. Children often pick up the piglets outside Arkansas and bring them home.

“This is a concern,” says Powell. “It’s very important everyone understands that the new rules apply to everyone -- commercial producers and 4-H’ers. Any pig being brought into the state is required to go through all the steps.”

To prevent PEDv, biosecurity is key. “People need to disinfect boots, wash their clothes. Anyone that’s been on a farm, attended a swine sale or show needs to be very conscientious about that. A simple step like washing equipment that’s been around off-site pigs is the smart approach.”