THE number of positive tests for porcine epidemic diarrhea virus (PEDV) reported by the National Animal Health Laboratory Network (NAHLN) for the week ended May 10 was 187 weekly cases — the lowest since January.
Although the cases reported by NAHLN do not accurately account for the magnitude of PEDV losses in the U.S. hog industry, reports of new PEDV outbreaks appear to be dropping.
Dr. Paul Sundberg, National Pork Board (NPB) senior vice president of science and technology, told Feedstuffs that the active infection of PEDV currently is declining, but that was anticipated to occur as the temperature rises during the summer months.
While the trend for slightly fewer virus outbreaks is welcome news, the pork industry is not letting its guard down.
"The newest things we are working on and planning for this summer are to help keep the virus to a manageable level next winter, when the number (of PEDV cases) will come back up," Sundberg said.
Presently, NPB and the National Pork Producers Council (NPPC) are waiting on the final version of the U.S. Department of Agriculture's mandatory reporting program for PEDV and swine delta coronavirus.
Prior to USDA's April 18 announcement that it will require the mandatory reporting, NPPC and NPB participated in many discussions that included identifying different ways the agency could assist with the PEDV fight.
In fact, a PEDV strategic task force — which was formed more than a year ago and consists of representatives from NPPC, NPB, the American Association of Swine Veterinarians, NAHLN, USDA, state animal health officials, state veterinarians and hog producers — reviewed information and provided valuable input, including submitting concerns about the mandatory reporting program.
In addition to mandating reporting, USDA also announced that it will require tracking of the movement of pigs, vehicles and other equipment leaving affected premises.
Across the industry, this news raised red flags and anxieties, especially in terms of the practical nature of prerequisites for hog producers who are already battling the virus.
From the beginning, the PEDV strategic task force had stressed to USDA that any program must be practical and workable for pork producers, Sundberg said.
"My concern is that the scope of such a project will (create an impasse to) the ability to do the tracking," he explained. "This will be a real issue if they (USDA) maintain their position to track equipment and animals."
Furthermore, Sundberg noted that USDA has objectives to improve biosecurity and herd health and maintain movement of animals across the country by instituting the mandatory reporting program.
The agency wants to gather information about the infection and location of the virus, as well as epidemiological information that will help with the investigation and, ultimately, in USDA's opinion, assist with the control of the disease.
"NPPC and NPB have no arguments with the objectives," Sundberg noted. "The concern is with the implementation of the program."
He added that it is clear that producers are nervous about the information USDA collects and the manner in which it will be recorded, analyzed and stored.
"We have said right from the start that it has to been done in a way that protects the producers' business interests," Sundberg explained. "The producers are not against sharing data. What they are against is how that information is going to be held secure."
Moreover, USDA needs to keep in mind that PEDV is not a regulatory disease, so it is important that the information collected will not have any regulatory consequences — such as movement restrictions — for producers, especially since they are willing to share their data.
If the finalized program becomes too burdensome for producers, then there could be some backlash. It is important not to jeopardize producers' and veterinarians' willingness to submit samples to laboratories, which could be an impediment to the program's objective.
"We hope USDA recognizes these risks and is able to address them," Sundberg said.
USDA is still finalizing how the reporting requirements will be structured, and the agency hopes to have additional information on the final reporting requirements available during the week of June 9.
Point of entry
According to Sundberg, the "6 million-dollar question" is how PEDV and swine delta coronavirus entered the U.S. in the first place. The industry is actively encouraging USDA to do everything it can to find that answer.
"The virus is not just here. It is in multiple other countries and showed up essentially, within reason, at the same time," Sundberg explained. "How that happened, what the window of opportunity is for these viruses and how to get that closed are extremely important issues that we are working with USDA to solve."
In addition, the industry is also conducting its own investigation of the viruses' pathway into the U.S., which is a large and key piece of the puzzle.