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USDA approves vaccine for pig virus

Iowa, the largest pork producer in the country, is also victim of the porcine epidemic 
diarrhea virus which has caused the death of 7 million piglets last year.
Iowa, the largest pork producer in the country, is also victim of the porcine epidemic diarrhea virus which has caused the death of 7 million piglets last year.

An Iowa company was recently granted conditional approval for a vaccine to treat the porcine epidemic diarrhea virus (PEDv). Since May 2013, PEDv has wreaked havoc on American hog farmers and caused higher pork prices for consumers.

Iowa is the largest pork producing state according to 2012 U.S. Agriculture Census, and the state had just under $7 billion in pork sales in 2012. Jasper County ranked 39th in the state and had close to $6 million in pork sales.

With the pork industry being such an influential part of Iowa’s economy, it made waves when Ames-based Harrsisvaccines became the first company in the country to receive the U.S. Department of Agriculture’s conditional approval for PEDv vaccine and all farmers are now required to report any new cases.

The company announced its approval in a release on June 16.

“The impact of this disease has been devastating,” Dr. Hank Harris, founder and CEO of Harrisvaccines, said in a statement.  “At Harrisvaccines, we recognized the great threat that PEDv posed to the industry immediately and that is why we are able to introduce the first USDA conditionally licensed PEDv vaccine on the market.”

Exact figures on the damage PEDv has done to the pork industry’s economy aren’t available, but PEDv has been blamed for the record rise in pork prices by several industry organizations. A report by Iowa Public Radio forecasts pork prices to continue to climb past $4 a pound. The previous record high was $3.56 and was set in September 2011, according to the Pork Network.

PEDv doesn’t affect humans, but it causes severe dehydration and diarrhea in older pigs. These symptoms cause them to drop weight and become sickly. Newborn piglets that are exposed to the virus usually die within days of contact.

The first U.S. case was discovered in Indiana and since then, PEDv has hit 30 states and affected more than 6,000 farms according to the National Pork Board.

Prior to Harrisvaccines announcing its vaccine’s approval, U.S. Secretary of Agriculture Tom Vilsack announced that his department was investing an additional $26.5 million into trying to eradicate PEDv.

“In the last year, industry has estimated PEDv has killed some 7 million piglets and caused tremendous hardship for many American pork producers,” Vilsack said in a June 5 release. “The number of market-ready hogs this summer could fall by more than 10 percent relative to 2013 because of PEDv.”

“Together with industry and our state partners, the steps we will take through the Federal Order will strengthen the response to PEDv and these other viruses and help us lessen the impact to producers, which ultimately benefit the consumers who have seen store pork prices rise by almost 10 percent in the past year.”

Kellogg hog farmer Joey Van Kooten said he is pleased with all the support the fight against PEDv has been garnering, and thinks it’s a step in the right direction to protect one of the cornerstones of Iowa’s agricultural economy.

“Well, it’s great that they came out with the vaccine as soon as they did for a virus that hasn’t been in the U.S. (long),” Van Kooten said. “Sadly, the virus has been devastating to the industry already. But it has to be a relief for the sow farms that have had the virus run through their farm, and to know they now have a fighting chance.

“I give a lot of credit to the people that have worked to come up with the vaccine and especially the farmers who have put a lot of work and care into the pigs that have been affected by the virus.”

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