Deadly pig virus confirmed in North Dakota

By Blake Nicholson

Associated Press

Published: Wednesday, March 5 2014 11:48 a.m. MST

FILE - In this Jan. 4, 2005 file photo, a group of young pigs stare out of a pen at a hog farm in central North Dakota. A virus that has killed more than 4 million pigs in the U.S. in less than a year has been found in a swine herd in the eastern part of North Dakota. The virus was first found in the country in April 2013. The American Association of Swine Veterinarians says 25 states have now reported at least one confirmed case.

Will Kincaid, File, Associated Press

Enlarge photo»

BISMARCK, N.D. — A virus that has killed more than 4 million pigs in the U.S. in less than a year has been found in North Dakota, and officials are taking steps to try to stop it from spreading.

A case of Porcine Epidemic Diarrhea Virus, or PED, was confirmed in a swine herd in the eastern part of the state last Friday. North Dakota State University Extension Service swine specialist David Newman on Wednesday declined to specify the herd. He said the virus likely was brought in via a vehicle that had visited a slaughterhouse in another state.

"This is only a swine health issue," Newman said. "This is not a human safety issue or a food safety issue."

It is a big threat to the state's hog industry, which sends about 500,000 piglets to other states each year to be fattened for market.

"The impact this could have on our producers and our production system is significant — potentially millions of dollars it could cost the industry," Newman said.

PED was first found in the country in April 2013. It has now spread to 25 states, according to the American Association of Swine Veterinarians.

The virus causes severe diarrhea, dehydration and vomiting in pigs, and can be fatal, especially to young pigs.

"We're concerned about it, there's no doubt about it," said Jim Gibbens, of Cando, a board member for the North Dakota Pork Council and one of the owners of a large hog operation in northeastern North Dakota. "The economic implications are huge if it gets in our 6,000-sow barn."

The state Board of Animal Health is now requiring any pigs shipped into the state or within the state to have a health certificate stating there have been no clinical signs of PED or a similar virus known as TGE for the last two months on the premises where the pigs originated. The certificate must be signed by the pig owner and a veterinarian, State Veterinarian Susan Keller said Wednesday.

"It's important that if anyone thinks they're seeing signs, that they communicate with their veterinarian, and those pigs don't move," she said.

Violations can carry a penalty of up to $5,000.

Newman is urging producers to follow strict biosecurity procedures, including keeping barns, clothing and vehicles clean and disinfected, to help control the spread of the virus, which is not airborne but spreads through contaminated fecal material.

"It could be transported in a trailer, it could be carried on someone's boots, it could be carried by vehicle," he said.

The North Dakota Pork Council supports all of the measures, and also has unsuccessfully pushed for a suspension of the pig "show season," such as at county fairs, Council President Kevin Tyndall said.

"We're not as large an industry in North Dakota as in other states, but we definitely want to protect what we have here," he said.

Follow Blake Nicholson on Twitter at https://twitter.com/NicholsonBlake

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