going above and beyond
Feb 19, 2001
The virus that could hike bacon prices
A deadly scourge has spread from China and Europe to the US, striking pigs in 15 states.
By Aimee Picchi
Meet the rapidly spreading virus that might goose your bacon and pork prices: porcine epidemic diarrhea virus, or PED.
The virus with that all too descriptive name was previously thought to exist only in China and Europe, but apparently it immigrated stateside this spring, The Associated Press reports.
In May, the U.S. Department of Agriculture confirmed the country's first case in Iowa. While it's not transmissible to humans, the virus has an astounding 80% to 100% mortality rate in piglets, with symptoms including diarrhea, fever, vomiting and, yes, death. The virus has now spread to 15 states at an alarming rate, AP reported.
"It has been devastating for those producers where it has been diagnosed," Dr. Nick Striegel, assistant state veterinarian for Colorado's Department of Agriculture, told the news service.
Already the market hog inventory is slightly lower than last year's because of a drop in Canadian imports and the outbreak could lead to tighter inventories, Nation's Restaurant News reported. That would result in higher prices for pork, requiring consumers to shell out more for bacon, chops and ham.
There's no evidence that the disease affects pork products themselves, Striegel told AP. So far, it has been detected in states ranging from Arkansas to South Dakota.
Unfortunately for bacon lovers, there's no vaccine for PED in the U.S., although cures exist in Japan, South Korea and China.
For pig farmers, the most delicate time is before piglets are weaned at 3 weeks of age. After that, mortality declines dramatically, the National Pork Board's Dr. Lisa Becton, the director of swine health information and research, told AP. She added that it's not clear how the virus spread to the U.S.
Becton added: "We know for individual farms the impact is severe, especially if it's a sow farm that has baby pigs, because baby pigs do suffer the most from the disease."

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