Mo. Farmers Take Steps to Prevent Spread of Deadly Pig Virus

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COLUMBIA - A pig virus known as Porcine Epidemic Diarrhea (PED) is spreading quickly across the United States and in Missouri.

"One pig that gets the disease could potentially affect all the pigs in the United States," Josh Schaeffer, MU's resident large animal veterinarian said.

It can kill any pig, but is especially deadly in younger ones.

"Those pigs that are at 7 to 10 days old or less, we're expecting a near 100 percent death rate," Schaeffer said.

So far, 79 farms in Missouri have reported cases of the disease, with a total of 4,757 farms across the U.S. reporting contact with PED.

"We currently don't have any vaccines, and we don't have any exposure of our pigs to these diseases, so whenever they get sick, it sort of just runs rampant," Schaeffer said.

Humans can't catch PED, but Schaeffer said farmers should take extra precautions to prevent it from spreading.

"The main point on trying to keep this out of your farm is biosecurity," Schaeffer said. "Those main points are limiting outside exposure, so limiting who comes into the farm, and then really doing a good job of cleaning and disinfecting facilities."

Schaeffer said just a tablespoon of PED could kill every pig in the state and six would kill every pig in the nation.

With an estimated 5 million pigs already dead, economists are expecting you'll pay more for pork at the grocery store.

"At the wholesale level right now, we're about 30 to 40 percent higher in almost every wholesale cut, so ultimately consumers are going to see higher prices."

Brown said prices are at record levels and are only expected to increase. On March 31, the United States Department of Agriculture (USDA) will release its livestock report, which will give economists a better idea of where prices are headed next.

Schaeffer said the scariest part of the disease to him is that it can be traced back to China, but no one knows how it came to the United States.