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The home for VPR's coverage of health and health industry issues affecting the state of Vermont.

Deadly Porcine Virus Identified In Vermont

Meneer Zjeroen
Creative Commons/Flickr
Good biosecurity practices can keep piglets like these from contracting Porcine Epidemic Diarrhea.

A deadly virus has been spreading through the nation’s pig populations. Porcine Epidemic Diarrhea virus, or PED, has killed about 4 or 5 million hogs since it was identified in the United States last May.

Earlier this week, the Agency of Agriculture announced that the first cases of PED have been identified in Vermont.

Shelley Mehlenbacher is the Assistant State Veterinarian for the Vermont Department of Agriculture. She spoke with Vermont Edition about the virus.

The good news, Mehlenbacher said, is that the virus cannot spread to humans or other animals, and it isn't a food safety issue.

"Pork is still definitely safe to eat," she said.

However, she said, PED is devastating to pig populations when it makes its way onto a farm.

"Most pigs in any phase of a production herd will become sick, and death loss in nursing pigs could approach 100 percent," she said.

The virus spreads through contact with infected feces, which can be contagious for three to four weeks during the sickness, Mehlenbacher said.

Beyond the tragic loss of life, having the disease on a farm can take a financial toll on the farmer. So how can farmers avoid it?

Detection of the disease is key. Mehlenbacher said common identifiers are:

  • Vomiting and diarrhea within the herd.
  • Piglet death.

But more important for pork producers is preventing the disease from making it onto the farm at all. Mehlenbacher said biosecurity measures like these will help:

  • Wear cover-alls and rubber boots on the farm and washing or changing out of them before going to another farm.
  • Making sure that vehicles coming onto the farm are clean and aren't carrying manure.
  • Isolating new animals on the farm to be sure they don't show signs of disease before being introduced to the other animals.
  • Employing a farm veterinarian to establish biosecurity and herd health practices.
Jane Lindholm is the host, executive producer and creator of But Why: A Podcast For Curious Kids. In addition to her work on our international kids show, she produces special projects for Vermont Public. Until March 2021, she was host and editor of the award-winning Vermont Public program Vermont Edition.
Sage Van Wing was a Vermont Edition producer.
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