July 18, 2013

A deadly hog virus that has been sweeping the Midwest had one of its first diagnoses in Carroll County.

The Porcine Epidemic Diarrhea Virus, or PEDV, was confirmed in the United States on May 17, by the USDA.

Three days later, May 20, John Hicks, a swine specialist with the Carroll Veterinary Clinic, was contacted by a pig farmer who was seeing symptoms consistent with PEDV.

At first they thought it was Transmissible Gastro Enteritis, a disease that Iowa farmers have dealt with for years and that has symptoms similar to PEDV. After initial test results came back negative Hicks asked the lab to test for PEDV, which he had heard about the week before.

Hicks said he could not give out personal information but confirmed that the PEDV case was on a hog farm near Halbur.

On May 17, when PEDV was first publicly confirmed, there were few cases in only two states - Iowa and Indiana. At the end of June, the virus had spread to 16 confirmed states, and 130 cases had been confirmed in Iowa.

The virus is not very harmful to adult pigs, but any sow infected transfers the virus to its piglets, which - with little to no immunity - can have up to 100 percent mortality rate.

Hicks said the virus poses the largest threat to farrowing facilities, in particular privately owned facilities.

"In my mind is if, say, it would come in and hit our sow farm or another sow farm, it could really devastate and possibly shut down the farm," said Ben Klocke a local Carroll farmer whose operation has been spared an issue with the virus. "If you can't sell any pigs to market - it's just hard to keep employees on when you have no income coming in."

"If they're a privately owned farm and they're on the bubble anyway because of financial issues, it could be the difference between survival and bankruptcy," Hicks said.

PEDV had never been found in the United States prior to this year but was previously found in Europe and parts of Asia, China in particular.

Klocke said his farm operation is beefing up biosecurity to protect against the rapidly spreading virus.

Fortunately, the virus is not a threat to health or food safety for humans, nor is it a reportable foreign animal disease in the United States, which means it should not affect foreign trading.