USDA seen considering mandatory reports of PEDv outbreaks

Chicago | Reuters — The U.S. government is considering rules that would require outbreaks of a deadly pig virus to be reported to the government in an effort to improve tracking of the disease, which has already spread to 30 states, an industry group said Monday.

Porcine epidemic diarrhea virus (PEDv) has killed millions of baby pigs since it was first detected in the U.S. a year ago. PEDv has crimped hog supplies in the U.S. and sent prices to record highs. It remains unclear how the virus entered the country, and farmers have struggled to find ways to contain it.

The U.S. Department of Agriculture (USDA) has discussed the option of mandatory reporting with the American Association of Swine Veterinarians (AASV), said Tom Burkgren, executive director of the association.

PEDv, which is nearly always fatal in piglets, has been difficult to track in part because veterinarians are not required to alert government officials of its presence.

USDA is “currently evaluating additional options for addressing this virus,” a spokeswoman said in an email without elaborating.

The veterinarians’ association has been publishing weekly data on outbreaks, based on voluntary reports, since PEDv was first discovered in the U.S. The virus does not affect humans. Burkgren said it may be too late for mandatory reporting to have significant benefits to the livestock industry.

“You’ve got a very widely distributed disease,” he said. “At this point in the outbreak, I think we’d have to see some really good reasons to start reporting it.”

Further discussions with USDA are expected later this week, Burkgren said, adding that the government had not yet given details on how mandatory reports could potentially be used.

Mandatory reporting is already used for viruses such as African swine fever and foot-and-mouth disease. The USDA can quarantine animals with African swine fever and restrict the movement of infected animals.

The AASV’s report for the period ending April 5 pegged the number of U.S. farms reporting at least one positive PEDv case at 5,509 across 28 states since the virus arrived in the country last year. New cases have since been diagnosed in Virginia and Vermont, the association noted.

In Canada, where the virus first appeared in January, 55 farms have been confirmed with positive cases in four provinces: one each in Manitoba, Quebec and Prince Edward Island and 52 in Ontario.

Ontario’s two most recent cases were confirmed Friday on farrow-to-finish operations in Huron and Lambton counties. Some positives were also confirmed in hogs last week at an unnamed “high-traffic site” in western Manitoba.

— Tom Polansek and Meredith Davis report on ag commodity markets for Reuters from Chicago. Includes files from Network staff.

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