Last spring, a killer virus suddenly appeared on a hog farm in Ohio.
Now, almost a year since it was first detected, the virus has spread to 30 states, wiping out 10 percent of the U.S. pig population. The virus, known as porcine epidemic diarrhea virus, or PEDv, targets the lining of a pig’s small intestine, causing extreme diarrhea. It’s highly contagious, and spreads by contact with infected manure or feed.
As many as 7 million pigs of the country’s 63 million herd have died from PEDv since the fast-spreading outbreak began, according to Reuters, sinking both revenue and morale across U.S. hog farms. Here’s what you need to know about the deadly disease.
No one knows where it came from. The disease is not a new one, and outbreaks have been reported in Europe, China, Korea, and Japan. But officials have not found any clear evidence of how the virus entered the U.S. Some suspect the outbreak originated in China, where a virus nearly identical to PEDv infected pigs in Anhui Province. China has imposed an import ban on U.S. live pork in response to the outbreak here.
The unusually cold and snowy winter didn’t help. PEDv thrives in cold, damp environments. The number of reported cases of the infection tripled between last December and this month.
The virus is incredibly lethal. PEDv is almost 100 percent fatal in pigs less than three weeks old.
But not for humans. The virus only affects pigs, and poses no health risk to humans or other animals.
And there’s no vaccine. But farmers, veterinarians, and pork organizations are trying to find one. The National Pork Board has already spent $1.1 million on research to understand how the virus works and how to stop it.
In the meantime, farmers are stepping up biosecurity. This means imposing stricter standards for cleanliness on hog farms. Some farmers require workers to change their clothes when entering and leaving barns, while others have banned outsiders from their property altogether. Farm employees are stocking up on disinfectant, careful not to spread the virus during their daily activities.
The outbreak has sent retail pork prices to record highs. This time last year, pork cost $3.52 a pound. Now, the meat is selling for $3.83 a pound, an all-time high for the U.S. For meat-eating Americans, summer barbecues may be pricier than usual. But don’t worry about chowing down — U.S. pork is still safe to eat.
And it’s spreading. The virus has cropped up in Canada, whose pork industry is closely connected to our own.
What We're Following See More »
Much has been made of David Brooks’s recent New York Times column, in which confesses to missing already the civility and humanity of Barack Obama, compared to who might take his place. In NewYorker.com, Jeffrey Frank reminds us how critical such attributes are to foreign policy. “It’s hard to imagine Kennedy so casually referring to the leader of Russia as a gangster or a thug. For that matter, it’s hard to imagine any president comparing the Russian leader to Hitler [as] Hillary Clinton did at a private fund-raiser. … Kennedy, who always worried that miscalculation could lead to war, paid close attention to the language of diplomacy.”
“We haven’t seen a true leftist since FDR, so many millions are coming out of the woodwork to vote for Bernie Sanders; he is the Occupy movement now come to life in the political arena.” So says Bill Maher in his Hollywood Reporter cover story (more a stream-of-consciousness riff than an essay, actually). Conservative states may never vote for a socialist in the general election, but “this stuff has never been on the table, and these voters have never been activated.” Maher saves most of his bile for Donald Trump and Sarah Palin, writing that by nominating Palin as vice president “John McCain is the one who opened the Book of the Dead and let the monsters out.” And Trump is picking up where Palin left off.