September 20, 2014

Study: Deadly hog disease PEDV can travel in feed

A deadly virus that’s driving up pork prices as it’s wiped out as many as one in every ten piglets in Nebraska in the past year can be spread through hog feed, according to new research.

Dr. Scott Dee, the study’s lead author and research director at Minnesota’s Pipestone Veterinary Services, says they were stunned to learn Porcine Epidemic Diarrhea Virus, or PEDV, can travel through livestock feed.

“That’s why I think the industry is a little reactive to that, because it’s new, it’s a surprise,” Dee says. “Again, no blame on the feed industry because we’re partners and we have to work together, but we have to realize that it is a potential risk, so we can manage that risk.”

In a little over a year, the virus has killed as many as seven-million pigs nationwide. There have been more than 4,100 cases reported in 26 states, including about 50 cases in Nebraska.

Dee isn’t sure where the virus originated but believes the study’s findings can help deter future outbreaks. He says the revelation that PEDV travels through feed has shaken the pork industry.

“The feed’s the wild card because historically feed hasn’t been a risk factor for disease transfer,” he says. “Now, all of the sudden, we have a pathogen that does. The fact that the feed could potentially be a vehicle was a big surprise.”

The study is being published in the BMC Veterinary Research Journal. Later this month, Dee’s team will release a paper on commercially-available feed additives which he says will help in the prevention of PEDV.

Nebraska is the nation’s #8 hog producer in an industry worth more than $1-billion dollars to the state’s economy.