A Purdue University professor of veterinary medicine is cautioning Indiana 4-H members exhibiting swine at summer fairs to take steps to reduce the chance of exposing their animals to a viral disease deadly to young pigs.
Health officials say the disease poses no health threat to the public or other animals, and there is no risk to food safety.
Porcine epidemic diarrhea (PED) virus is spread by pigs eating contaminated feces or bedding, or transferred by objects such as livestock trailers, equipment, feed, and clothing and boots.
“The virus can affect all age groups of pigs, but the mortality rate is highest for young pigs,” says Stephen B. Hooser, who also is director of the Indiana Animal Disease and Diagnostic Laboratory  based at Purdue. “Older pigs usually recover.”
The Indiana Board of Animal Health issued disease management recommendations for exhibitors, which include ensuring barn and equipment sanitation, checking livestock for signs of illness, and isolating animals before returning them to the herd.
Putting livestock from different farms together increases the chance that infected swine could transmit the virus to other swine. Biosecurity measures help prevent PED virus from being introduced into other herds as the animals return to their home herd or to another facility.
More than 10,000 Indiana youth were enrolled in the 4-H swine project during 2012.
“They don't all exhibit, but the majority of those who do exhibit show more than one animal,” says Aaron Fisher, 4-H youth development specialist in animal science. Last year, 1,100 4-H exhibitors showed a total of 1,900 hogs at the Indiana State Fair.
All members who exhibit must earn Youth Pork Quality Assurance Plus certification through the National Pork Board, Fisher says.
PED virus was confirmed for the first time in the United States this spring, with the earliest cases found in Iowa and Indiana. Cases have been confirmed in more than a dozen states since.
Laboratory testing is the only way to accurately diagnose the disease, as it has the same symptoms – diarrhea, vomiting and dehydration – as Transmissible gastroenteritis, known as TGE, says Roman Pogranichniy, associate professor of virology and head of the virology testing section of the Animal Disease and Diagnostic Laboratory. Indiana swine producers noticed illness in pigs of all ages, which is unusual, he says.
The U.S. Department of Agriculture's National Veterinary Services Laboratory is conducting the majority of testing to confirm PED virus. The Indiana Animal Disease and Diagnostic Laboratory has been testing to either confirm or rule out TGE or rotavirus as the cause, Pogranichniy says.
There have been at least nine confirmed cases of PED virus in Indiana.
“While PED virus has been in Europe and Asia, it's a new, emerging disease in the United States,” he says. “We will need to develop testing for it in the near future.”
Pogranichniy is looking for funding opportunities to begin research on the disease.
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