Virus deadly to piglets spreads to North Carolina's hog farms

Tue Jul 2, 2013 6:00pm EDT
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By P.J. Huffstutter and Theopolis Waters

CHICAGO, July 2 (Reuters) - A swine virus deadly to piglets has been discovered on two hog farms in North Carolina, an official in the No. 2 hog-producing U.S. state said on Tuesday.

Porcine Epidemic Diarrhea virus (PEDv) was found at a sow farm, where piglets are born, and at a finishing farm where hogs are fattened up for slaughter, said Dr. Tom Ray, director of Livestock Health Programs for the North Carolina Department of Agriculture and Consumer Services.

State and federal veterinarian diagnostic lab researchers confirmed the positive tests last week, Ray told Reuters.

Presence of the virus in North Carolina has U.S. investigators concerned about its reach and the difficulty of containing or eliminating it. The vulnerability of baby piglets makes the virus especially troubling for North Carolina, with its heavy concentration of massive sow farms.

Iowa, the largest U.S. producer of swine, has twice as many hogs as North Carolina. But the number of piglets born in North Carolina nearly equaled that of Iowa last year, thanks to these farms that churn out millions of baby pigs annually, said independent livestock market analyst Bob Brown in Edmond, Ok.

While the virus has not tended to kill older pigs, mortality among pigs four weeks old or younger has commonly been at least 50 percent, and as high at 100 percent, say veterinarians and scientists studying the U.S. outbreak.

"There's tremendous concern anytime you have a disease that's contagious like this. You have your life, livelihood and family tied up into your operation and anything that is going to threaten that security is of great concern," Ray said.

The virus does not pose any health risk to humans or other animals, and federal officials said meat from PEDv-infected pigs is safe to eat.   Continued...