MANKATO — A virus that is usually deadly to piglets has arrived in Minnesota but it's not known how many cases might exist in the hog-intensive counties of south central Minnesota.
David Preisler, Executive Director of the Minnesota Pork Producers Association, based in Mankato, said the virus — called Porcine Epidemic Diarrhea — is not classified by the government as a reportable or regulated disease. He said the only known cases are when a farmer volunteers the information.
What's known is there have been PED cases at 30 farms in Minnesota and 300 sites nationwide. Minnesota has more than 3,000 hog farms, many concentrated in this area. Preisler said he has not heard from any producers in the area who've said their herd had PED.
"We don't know where it will go in the future. It's obviously concerning but certainly not a crisis," said Preisler of the virus which has been prevalent in Asia and Europe for decades.
The severe diarrhea causes dehydration and is deadly for very young pigs. "Pigs that are still nursing it's not unusual for the mortality rate to be 100 percent, but as they get older they usually get sick and then recover," Preisler said. He said herds where PED exists also can build up a natural immunity to the virus.
The virus can not be transmitted to humans or other animals and is not carried in pork meat. Preisler said there has not been any consumer concerns about the virus and it has not hurt U.S. exports of pork because it is not a regulated disease that would make overseas buyers shy away from importing.
Some predict that if the virus kills enough piglets it could, however, drive up pork prices.
There is no vaccine for the virus in the U.S. but there is in Europe and Asia. Preisler said a vaccine supply and program would have to be developed here.
The biggest thing farmers can do, he said, is take a hard look at the bio-security of their farms.
"The best thing is to prevent it from coming onto the farm. The biggest way it comes in is vehicles like hog trucks that weren't cleaned out and disinfected properly and it can be carried in on a person's coveralls or boots. That's why farms have showers and change clothes before going in barns."