PEDv decimates U.S. swine population

Farmers nationwide will wake up tomorrow, many before the sun rises, to check their swine herd. Walking about, all appears to be normal, nothing too out of the ordinary. Not until the farmer checks his sow, who is tending to her baby piglets, will he realize that disaster has struck.

An invisible killer has recently hit the United States pork industry with the introduction of the Porcine Epidemic Diarrhea virus. How the virus was introduced and how it can be stopped are both currently unknown.

Marcia Shannon, state swine nutrition specialist at the University of Missouri, is concerned as she sees the number affected continue to grow.

“It’s not a size dependent disease, so it doesn’t matter if you have 10 sows or 10,000 sows, the ability is still there,” Shannon said.

Unfortunately, despite the extended winter that the Midwest has experienced this year, the virus has continued to thrive through the icy conditions.

According to Steve Patterson, veterinarian at Northeast Veterinarian Services Inc., in Shelbina, Mo., PEDv typically shows its first signs in sows with the appearance of diarrhea and vomiting. A pig 3 weeks and older will show clinical signs, but should have a strong enough immune system to successfully combat the virus. Baby pigs, on the other hand, are the primary victims and will consequently die of severe diarrhea and dehydration. The virus has no effect on the human population.

“I’ve read reports that we’ve lost over four million pigs because of this,” Patterson said. “It’s very severe, on the scale of one to 10, it’s a nine.”

Patterson has seen first-hand the effect the virus has had upon Missouri swine farmers. In his opinion, biosecurity is the key to prevention. Patterson suggests taking the following precautions when in and around swine:

  • Reduce traffic between farms
  • Wash vehicles after visiting farms
  • Wear disposable protective clothing (ie. booties, coveralls, gloves and masks) when in contact with pigs

“I’m going to try to be optimistic and think we can figure this thing out and get a vaccine to prevent it,” he said. “But in the meantime you’ve got to practice super high biosecurity to help keep it off your farm.”

For more information about PEDv and a list of steps you can take to increase biosecurity, visit

Betty Thomas

About the Author Betty Thomas

Agriculture began to influence my life at a young age. My father is a sixth-generation farmer, so it only seems right to pass on the tradition. I’m from a small, rural community where a large portion of the local economy is centered around agriculture. I was born and raised on a farm outside of Oakford, Ill., and wouldn’t have had it any other way. A friend took a college visit to the University of Missouri one weekend, and I decided to tag along. I immediately fell in love with the hospitality and beauty of the campus. With such a strong agricultural school and journalism school it seemed to be the perfect fit. Looking back there is no place I would rather call home.