In the case of a swine virus affecting pork producers, being the state “where the wind comes sweeping down the plain” could be devastating.
Around 1.3 million hogs have been killed by the virus, known as Porcine Epidemic Diarrhea Virus, or PEDv, since the disease was discovered in the U.S., according to a Reuters story. And there is evidence the virus — which humans can't get — is carried by wind.
Prestage Farms' hog farm in the Oklahoma Panhandle experienced “substantial” losses in June as the virus spread through its herd, said General Manager Greg Stephens.
“For three to four weeks, just about everything born died,” he said. The virus affects nursing pigs and has a mortality rate of 80 percent to 100 percent. Most die within 72 hours from dehydration associated with diarrhea.
In the Reuters article, John Prestage, senior vice president of Prestage, described how 30,000 pigs died “in the blink of an eye.” Seaboard Foods, a large pork producer with hog farms near Guymon, wouldn't say how many of its piglets have died from PEDv, but researchers found the virus in air samples taken nearby.
Workers can spread the disease by tracking contaminated manure on their shoes from one truck to the next as hogs arrive at the processing plants, explained Roy Lee Lindsey, executive director at the Oklahoma Pork Council.
Stephens said since the outbreak, the Prestage facility is taking extra care cleaning the facilities and reemphasizing basic biosecurity measures. But he said it's possible that the virus is spread in the air.
“If it wasn't airborne, we have no idea how it got in,” he said.
Oklahoma has the second highest incidence of samples testing positive for the virus — 155 through Sept. 8; Iowa is the only state with more, at 181, according to a report by the USDA's National Animal Health Laboratory.
Outbreaks aren't required to be reported to federal officials so the scope of PEDv's impact is difficult to determine. Blayne Arthur, a spokeswoman for the state Agriculture Department, said it's something the agency is aware of and is concerned about, especially since hogs are one of the state's top agriculture commodities.
A USDA report that will be released Friday is expected to give a clearer picture of the virus's impact. The report, released quarterly, was last published in June and details the hog inventory as of June 1 — right as PEDv became widespread.
What is it?
What is Porcine Epidemic Diarrhea Virus (PEDv)
• First recognized in England in 1971; first found in the U.S. in May.
• Transmitted via the fecal-oral route, causing acute diarrhea within 12 to 36 hours of onset.
If it wasn't airborne, we have no idea how it got in.”
Prestage Farms general manager