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Area Pork Producers Fighting Against a Deadly Virus Possibly Carried by the Wind


Porcine Epidemic Diarrhea virus, or PEDv, is a heat-sensitive virus than can kill up to 100% of piglets that contract it, and hog producers in the Oklahoma Panhandle and Southwestern Kansas are battling the disease that experts now believe is carried on the wind reported the Global Post.  That’s devastating news for high plains farmers where the wind is a strong, consistent force of nature. 

The disease has been in Europe since the 1970s, is uncontrolled in China and Asia after nearly 40 years.  The first case in the United States occurred in April of this year.  Federal investigators have traced the first U.S. case to Ohio, but have not pinpointed the origin, or how it entered the U.S.  600 cases have been confirmed in 17 states.  Each case could represent thousands of infected animals.

Guymon, Oklahoma:

Hitch Enterprises' production manager Mike Brandherm said he lost roughly three weeks of production this summer, about 18,000 pigs.

Texhoma, Oklahoma:

Prestage's manager Greg Stephens told Reuters he is concerned piglets still are dying at an above-normal rate. Sows pass immunity to their newborn, he said, and the piglets should have developed immunity by now.

Southwestern Kansas:

Third-generation hog farmer Nathan Smith is battling the virus by removing young pigs early from farrowing barns and keeping buildings warmer than usual. He also has switched to an organic nutritional supplement to quell diarrhea in the animals.

Smith took action after losing 15,000 piglets this summer, or about $1 million worth of livestock.

"We had this one trailer come back from the packing house, and that started it," Smith said. "On a Friday, one blew up. On Sunday, another blew up. Then Monday, another one."

Smith is convinced the wind carried the virus. "It moved too fast for tires, too fast for feet," he said. "The only thing that touched each was the wind."

Most of these piglets die within 72 hours from dehydration associated with diarrhea. Older animals usually survive after being ill.  The outbreak slowed with the summer heat, and is expect to thrive again when the weather cools.  The virus poses no threat to humans.