Agriculture Science Today Episode 007: PEDv “The Sticky Virus”

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Agriculture Science Today Episode 007

PEDv “The Sticky Virus”

This week Tim and Steph talk about the pig disease Porcine Epidemic Diarrhea Virus or PEDv with Dr. Bob Morrison of the University of Minnesota. The virus is highly pathogenic, spreading and has caused over 5 million pig deaths in 27 states.

History of PEDv

It was found first in April 2013 on an Ohio hog farm. It is a devastating virus for baby pigs causing diarrhea which is deadly because they have little reserves to live on. There is a strain in Europe that has been around since the 70’s but not as virulent as the strain that showed up in Asia 2-4 years ago and in the U.S. in 2013.There aren’t any theories of how PEDv came to arrive in the U.S.

Possibility of Zoonosis for PEDv

Despite being a Coronavirus which is a common virus type to many species Dr. Morrison knew of no potential for spread to humans or other domesticated animals at the present time. Bats being the potential initial source of PEDv was discussed but not enough is known currently about it to speculate. Dr. Morrison also mentioned the Delta Virus which causes similar symptoms to PEDv although not the extreme death losses.

University of MN role in PEDv research

The University’s diagnostic lab is providing diagnostics services and development of new tests to test for PEDv. Dr. Morrison is working on the epidemiology of the virus focusing and incidence, impact, spread, and rate of infection.

The incidence project he is running has 680 sow farms (1/3 of industry) they are monitoring for incidence of PEDv infection. The information gleaned helps track how the epidemic is taking place. First zone of infection was in Oklahoma followed by the Southeast and now the third phase that is currently happening is in the Midwestern states.

The estimate of impact project they are doing is finding out what to expect on average if the disease strikes on a farm. 18 farms data showed that for first 3 weeks 100% of piglets were lost and on average it takes 6 weeks to get back to normal after it has gone through. Some recent data is showing that the losses may be getting worse.

The third project they are just starting now is researching how long it takes to eliminate the virus after a farm has gotten it. Preliminary data suggests that it will take around 4 month to eliminate the virus but there is concern that it is persisting longer than previously thought.

The last major project is quantifying risk posed by a neighboring farm being infected. The national pork board funded it. Having PEDv in a region definitely increases likelihood of it infecting another farm. The more traffic a farm has the higher the risk of disease. Rodents were a risk factor as well as how deadstock are disposed of. There is a cumulative effect of those factors so the more of them a farm has the higher their risk of a PED outbreak.

How to prevent spread of PEDv

First off farmers are encouraged to let others know the status of their farm so they don’t visit and track the disease back to their farm. Dr. Morrison compared the virus to honey in that it’s a very sticky virus and stays on equipment, people, clothes way better than other viruses seem to. He mentioned visiting the National Pork Board website for educational resources for farmers on how to prevent and handle PEDv outbreaks. Another good source we found for information was the AASV website which had a ton of info on the disease and good practices to prevent it. Limiting traffic on a farm seemed to be one of the most important factors a farm can control he mentioned while discussing his lab’s research.

Feedbacks and vaccines as measures to control PEDv

Vets and farmers are using intestines of pigs which died of disease and fecal matter from diseased pigs to get widespread immunity in the sow herd and to make sure there will be no lingering infection because of naive individuals. This may sound gross but is among the few options available to farmers currently to try to save their herd.

The only vaccine currently available is a killed vaccine which is not thought to be effective in a naive sow herd to build immunity to levels needed to prevent disease. Companies are working on attenuating a modified live virus but this will take time to complete. Killed virus vaccine can however be used in an infected herd with some success along the same lines as feedbacks to increase herd immunity.

 How to keep employee moral up during PEDv outbreak

Farmers need to help keep employee moral up because as Dr. Morrison says “working with healthy pigs is so fun but working with diseased or dying pigs is so not fun”. He provided some great advice that owners or supervisors need to acknowledge the tough times and work that goes into trying to keep pigs healthy and thank employees for their efforts. Another tip not mentioned on the show but seems like a good idea Tim’s friends the Roelofs mentioned is to hire an outside crew to do feedback making and inoculation if that’s a tool a farm decides to implement to fight an ongoing infection.

That’s all folks!

Thank you for listening to our show and if you like it please go over to Our iTunes Page to subscribe and give us a star rating or a review so that we are more visible and more people can learn about the awesome science going on in agriculture.  Be sure to listen in next week when we discuss why “Grouped Calves are Smarter” and we’ll be reviewing a paper in PLOS one by Charlotte Gaillard “Social Housing improves Dairy Calves Performance in two cognitive tests”.

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