Federal assistance comes after political pressure and continued spread of deadly virus despite massive veterinary response.
Agriculture Secretary Tom Vilsack announced April 18 that the U.S. Department of Agriculture (USDA) is instituting a monitoring and control program to address the persistent spread of porcine epidemic diarrhea virus (PEDv) in the United States. The federal order is designed to enhance biosecurity and health of the domestic swine herd in order to maintain movement of pigs in the United States and slow the spread of the disease, which is estimated to have killed upwards of 5 million pigs.
PEDv is not a reportable disease under international standards, but Vilsack’s federal order will require mandatory reporting of all herds diagnosed with PEDv and swine delta coronavirus. Producers are required to identify affected herds and provide location information. Animal health laboratories receiving diagnostic samples are required to provide positive tests and location information to USDA as well.
Herds with PEDv will also be required to enter the monitoring and control program, the specifics of which will be developed in collaboration with state animal health officials, pork producers and swine veterinarians. The goal of the program, according to the USDA, is to assist producers by supporting herd monitoring testing through the National Animal Health Laboratory Network (NAHLN), analyzing test date and movement data, and reporting results to appropriate state animal health officials and industry representatives.
The USDA asks that swine veterinarians specifically assist in developing monitoring and control procedures. A fact sheet states, “[Veterinarians’] field experience and expertise will help us determine how often to test herds and what samples to collect, what biosecurity procedures to require, what herd-level control procedures to require, and how/when a herd can be released from the monitoring program.”
The USDA will also require tracking of the virus. In order to continue moving their herds, producers will have to report movement of pigs, vehicles and other equipment leaving affected premises. Experts have long suspected that the virus is being spread through transportation, but it continues to be transmitted despite increased awareness of biosecurity measures.
“Today’s actions will help identify gaps in biosecurity and help us as we work together to stop the spread of these diseases and the damage caused to producers, industry and ultimately consumers,” Vilsack says in the April 18 release. Federal intervention by the agriculture secretary was prompted by ongoing concerns in the pork industry but also by two senators whose states are seeing a growing number of PEDv cases.
Last month U.S. Senators Debbie Stabenow (D-Mich.), chairwoman of the Senate Committee on Agriculture, Nutrition and Forestry, and Kay Hagan (D-N.C.) called for disaster assistance for pork producers, many of whom have been crippled by the nearly 100 percent mortality rate PEDv unleashes on a herd’s naïve piglets. The senators asked Vilsack to approve disaster assistance for small pork producers affected by the virus.
The federal order responds to the request by using the USDA’s farm loan programs to provide credit options, including restructuring loans, to pork producers. “USDA is encouraging guaranteed lenders to use all the flexibility available under existing guarantees and to use new guarantees where appropriate to continue financing their regular costumers,” a release from the agency states.
To read USDA’s FAQ sheet on the federal order go to aphis.usda.gov.