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By Catholic Online (NEWS CONSORTIUM)

4/9/2014 (1 year ago)

Catholic Online (www.catholic.org)

Little is known on how to halt spread of mysterious disease

A new and mysterious virus, never before seen in the United States has killed millions of baby pigs in less than a year. The pestilence is pushing pork prices up by 10 percent or more. Even worse, very little is known about it or how to keep it from spreading.

The federal government is looking into how such viruses might spread, while the pork industry, wary of future outbreaks, has committed $1.7 million to research the disease.

The federal government is looking into how such viruses might spread, while the pork industry, wary of future outbreaks, has committed $1.7 million to research the disease.

Highlights

By Catholic Online (NEWS CONSORTIUM)

Catholic Online (www.catholic.org)

4/9/2014 (1 year ago)

Published in U.S.

Keywords: Pigs, virus, diarrhea


LOS ANGELES, CA (Catholic Online) - One economist believes than more than 6 million piglets in 27 states have died since porcine epidemic diarrhea showed up in the U.S. last May. A more conservative estimate, from the U.S. Department of Agriculture shows the nation's pig herd has shrunk at least three percent, to about 63 million pigs since the disease first appeared.

The virus, which does not infect humans or other animals, is believed to have originated from China. Scientists don't know how the virus got into the country. The federal government is looking into how such viruses might spread, while the pork industry, wary of future outbreaks, has committed $1.7 million to research the disease.

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Both the top producer and exporter of pork, U.S. production could decline about seven percent this year compared to last. This represents the biggest drop in more than 30 years, according to a recent report from Rabobank, which focuses on the food, beverage and agribusiness industries.

Pork prices have already shot up. A pound of bacon averaged $5.46 in February, 13 percent more than a year ago, according to the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics. Ham and chops have gone up too, although not as much.

Diarrhea affects pigs like people: symptoms that are uncomfortable in adults become life-threatening in newborns that dehydrate quickly. The best chance at saving piglets is to wean them and then pump them with clear fluids that hydrate them without taxing their intestines.

China has seen repeated outbreaks since the 1980s and severe strains have emerged there in recent years. Outbreaks previously hit Europe as well.

The virus thrives in cold weather, so the death toll in the U.S. has soared since December.

First reported in the Midwest, the U.S. states most affected are those with the largest share of the nation's pigs: Iowa, Minnesota, North Carolina and Illinois. The disease also has spread to Canada and Mexico.

Some states now require a veterinarian to certify that pigs coming in are virus-free, and China has asked the U.S. Department of Agriculture to similarly vouch for animals shipped overseas.

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