USDA approves vaccine to help fight PEDv

(Photo courtesy ARS/USDA)

Chicago | Reuters — The U.S. Department of Agriculture has approved the first vaccine that can be sold directly to farmers to help fight a virus that has wiped out an estimated 10 per cent of U.S. pigs, USDA said Monday.

Preliminary studies of the vaccine developed by Harrisvaccines “have been promising” in controlling porcine epidemic diarrhea virus (PEDv), which has killed up to eight million pigs and pushed pork prices to record highs since it was first identified in the U.S. last year.

However, veterinarians said that farmers who administer the vaccine will still need to keep up strict biosecurity practices to protect their herds because PEDv is particularly virulent.

It has been difficult in the past to develop effective vaccines for swine diseases such as PEDv that cause extreme diarrhea, said Liz Wagstrom, chief veterinarian for the National Pork Producers Council.

Before Monday’s approval, the vaccine was available only on prescription. Several companies are in the early stages of developing vaccines for PEDv but Harrisvaccines’ product is the first to win USDA conditional approval. That means it can be sold over the counter but the company must continue to test its effectiveness.

The product was already being administered to five to 10 per cent of U.S. female pigs through prescriptions from veterinarians, Iowa-based Harrisvaccines said this month.

Its most recent study tested only three vaccinated pregnant female pigs and two that were unvaccinated; another study on about 15 animals is underway.

Canada in January allowed hog veterinarians to get permits to import Harrisvaccines’ vaccine product iPED+, just as the country’s first cases of PEDv began appearing in hogs on farms.

The U.S., where PEDv arrived early last year, has since reported cases of PEDv in hogs on 7,250 farms across 30 states. Canada, where the virus first appeared in January, has reported PEDv in hogs on 66 farms across four provinces.

Of Canada’s cases, 62 have been in southern Ontario; its most recent cases were confirmed last Thursday and Friday, at a finisher barn in Huron County and a farrow-to-finish operation in Middlesex County respectively.

— Tom Polansek reports on agriculture and ag commodity markets for Reuters from Chicago. Includes files from Network staff.

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