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First case of porcine epidemic virus prompts changes for pork producers

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FARGO — Now that North Dakota has its first case of the Porcine Epidemic Diarrhea virus, pork producers, exhibitors and pig transporters are making some changes.

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The state Board of Animal Health, part of the North Dakota Department of Agriculture, decided last week that pigs being transported anywhere in the state must have a health certificate stating they did not come from a site affected by PEDv and they have not shown any signs of the virus for the last 60 days, said David Newman, North Dakota State University Extension Service swine specialist.

That certificate will be good only for 30 days before a new certificate is needed for transport, he said.

The state already requires that pigs transported into North Dakota from other states have a similar health certificate.

The virus can be deadly, specifically for piglets 3 to 5 weeks old, Newman said in a news release. Mortality in older swine is very low, but all pigs in the production site are affected by PEDv, Newman said.

“It takes approximately around two weeks for sows to build immunity,” he said. “After the sows build immunity, they can pass that immunity on to piglets, and then when those piglets are born they do carry immunity to that virus. So it is beneficial in that once they build some immunity we don’t see a continued death loss.”

PEDv has killed more than 4 million pigs in the United States since it was discovered last April, the release stated.

The first North Dakota case was confirmed in a swine herd in the eastern part of the state in late February.

“For producers impacted by the virus, it can mean serious economic losses as well as the psychological damage of dealing with the production losses associated with PEDv,” Newman said.

The virus causes severe diarrhea, dehydration and vomiting in pigs. Since young piglets lose the ability to absorb nutrients, the mortality rate in piglets from herds not previously exposed to PEDv is nearly 100 percent, Newman said.

The virus spreads easily through swine fecal matter and has been found in transport vehicles, processing plants and pig collection points, the release stated.

“It’s not just the pigs that are vectors for this disease, it’s also the producers themselves, and their trailers and their trucks and their employees,” Newman said. “Anyone who’s had contact with fecal matter from a pig can be a vector for transporting the virus to other locations.”

Joey Tigges of rural Durbin exhibits pigs, and planned to purchase the family’s show pigs in a few weeks.

“This PED virus has really created a problem for us because we usually go out of state to buy our pigs,” said Tigges, North Dakota Farm Bureau director of public relations and consumer education. “The health regulations for coming into the state with pigs from out-of-state are really strict right now, which I completely understand. However, even buying show pigs from a local producer, there are a lot of risks and a lot of things you have to look out for right now.”

Newman stressed that this is not a food safety or human health issue.

“This is an issue that impacts everybody involved in the swine industry,” Newman said. “Issues like PED virus can cost our pork producers their livelihood. That is why we need to work so hard to implement good biosecurity and minimize the transition of the virus.”

To make sure the swine barn stays virus-free, Newman recommends:

n Washing boots and clothing before and after being around swine.

n Cleaning and disinfecting vehicles used to transport pigs.

n Setting up a line of separation between the clean area (the barn) and the dirty area (anywhere outside the barn).

Jennifer Young, an NDSU swine research technician, demonstrated a simple way of doing this by sitting on a bench between the clean and dirty areas and putting plastic boot bags over her boots as she swung her legs over the bench into the clean area.

Producers who suspect PEDv might be in their herd should contact the NDSU Veterinary Diagnostic Laboratory at (701) 231-8307.

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