DENVER (AP) — Pork prices may be on the rise in the next
few months because of a new virus that has migrated to the U.S, killing
piglets in 15 states at an alarming rate in facilities where it has been
Dr. Nick Striegel, assistant state veterinarian for the Colorado
Department of Agriculture, said Wednesday the Porcine Epidemic Diarrhea
Virus, also known as PED, was thought to exist only in Europe and China,
but Colorado and 14 other states began reporting the virus in April, and
officials confirmed its presence in May. The virus causes severe diarrhea,
vomiting and severe dehydration in pigs, and can be fatal.
"It has been devastating for those producers where it has been diagnosed.
It affects nursing pigs, and in some places, there has been 100 percent
mortality," he said.
Striegel said the disease is not harmful to humans, and there is no
evidence it affects pork products.
He said outbreaks are not required to be reported to federal officials, so
the extent of the spread is difficult to determine, but in Colorado at
least two large production facilities have seen outbreaks.
The virus has been confirmed in about 200 hog facilities in 14 other
states including Arkansas, Iowa, Illinois, Indiana, Kansas, Michigan,
Minnesota, Missouri, North Carolina, New York, Ohio, Oklahoma,
Pennsylvania, and South Dakota, according to the American Association of
Dr. Lisa Becton, director of swine health information and research for the
National Pork Board, an industry trade group, said the impact on the
availability of pork and meat prices is difficult to estimate.
"At this point, I really don't have any indications what that potential
impact would be. Obviously, we know for individual farms the impact is
severe, especially if it's a sow farm that has baby pigs, because baby
pigs do suffer the most from the disease," she said.
According to the Iowa Pork Industry Center, an industry advocate, the
ability to test for the disease is limited. It is believed to be
transmitted by infected food or feces, and can be contained by
quarantining infected animals and washing down trucks and production
Becton said the disease can spread quickly and has killed entire
populations of pigs under 7 days old.
"As they get older, by the time they're weaned at around 3 weeks of age,
death loss can be around 80 percent or in severe cases upwards of 100
percent. Typically, after weaning mortality declines dramatically," she
She said veterinarians are still not sure how the disease got to the U.S.
Phil Lukens, co-owner of Lukens Farms located about 100 miles north of
Denver where about 20 pigs a year are raised for market, said he has not
been warned about the new disease, but he said most farmers already take
stringent precautions to protect their pigs.
"There are so many viruses, you always assume the worst. We keep our place
clean, and we quarantine new animals for 30 days," Lukens said.