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Communication: A Major Weapon Against PEDV

PEDv management Porcine Epidemic Diarrhea Virus (PEDV) has spread to more than 20 states so far on its way across the country. However, efforts to track and contain the disease are definitely helped by producers talking with their veterinarians and their farm neighbors about any change in PEDV status and efforts to prevent the virus’ spread.

While many of the details surrounding the virus are still unfolding, what is known is that it transfers via swine feces and survives in manure for extended periods of time. That means anything that manure and the virus contacts can be a source of infection. Winter slush and muck are particularly helpful in keeping the virus on the move.

Be Prepared
Whether or not your herd has encountered PEDV, there are several actions to consider.

While a positive diagnosis can be a touchy message to pass on, it’s the responsible thing to do. Start with a commitment to communicate with farm personnel as well as neighboring producers, service providers and veterinarians. Certainly a positive diagnosis can be a touchy message to pass on but it is the responsible thing to do.

“I consider it my ethical responsibility to alert others if I have PED,” says Dale Norton, who operates a 1,500-sow farm in southern Michigan and serves a vice president of the National Pork Board. “It’s important to know where infection is and isn’t, so you don’t take PEDV-positive pigs into an area.”

Norton sells two-thirds of his weaned pigs to two producers, located 20 miles away from his home farm, and finishes out the remaining hogs at three contract sites, 30 miles away. Recently he brought in a long-time swine nutritionist to serve as a facilitator to help write up procedures in the event Norton’s herd breaks with PED. “I want protocols in place ahead of time so that our buyers and contractors understand what and why we need to do certain things,” Norton says. All parties will then sit down and discuss the strategies in detail.

Because PED is not a reportable disease, tracking and containment can be a particular challenge. In Indiana, the state Swine Health Advisory Committee agreed to map PED cases by county in order to stay informed.

“We have worked to desensitize a positive (PED) diagnosis, so that producers are comfortable notifying neighbors,” says Bret Marsh, DVM, Indiana state veterinarian. “The point is to keep the conversation going within communities.” This allows producers throughout the state to monitor developments and increase biosecurity or take additional precautions to keep the virus out.

Indiana’s map is updated at least weekly—more often during the winter months. To date, 23 of Indiana’s 92 counties have reported PED cases, Marsh notes.

It’s that kind of local, state and national collaboration that is helping distribute much-needed information in the few short months (May 2013) since the virus has been identified in the United States. “There has been unprecedented cooperation; it is remarkable how the industry has stepped up to address this disease,” Marsh says.

Enhanced Biosecurity is Critical
Beyond the standard biosecurity practices already in place, Norton took some additional measures to protect his herd. “First, we’re trying to stay away from other pigs,” he says. The operation’s isolated southern Michigan location helps.

Norton changed sow markets as his previous packer’s load-out procedures presented some biosecurity risks, such as entering the chute and dock areas. He has committed one employee solely to loading sows and pigs and requires designated coveralls and double-set of plastic boots. Trailers are cleaned at a car wash, then disinfected and dried.

Weaned pigs are shipped in a school bus with an access hole in the back and a 10-inch tube used to move pigs into the building. “We ask the producers to disinfect the loading chutes before we arrive,” Norton says. The driver never gets out of the bus and she cleans it out once the transaction is complete.

Replacement gilts are isolated off site for 30 days. “Now that there’s a test, we use a rope to test them for PEDV,” Norton says.

Pelleted feed is transferred to a plastic garbage can in order to keep the bags out of the buildings. Similar efforts are made for all incoming supplies and packaging. He’s also made sure his delivery service doesn’t have other pig sites on the route.

“We’re just trying to be vigilant,” Norton says. “But I’m not sure we can avoid it.”

To get more information on PEDV strategies, Marsh and Norton point to the Pork Checkoff research reports (updated regularly), fact sheets and resources available at pork.org. (Such as “Positive Diagnosis of PEDV in a Breeding Herd: What Next?”)

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