Vilsack says hog virus must be reported

DES MOINES – The U.S. Department of Agriculture today issued a federal order mandating farms that contract one of two epidemic viruses in their hog facilities must report the infection to a state veterinarian or to the Animal and Plant Health Inspection Service.

The order went into effect immediately, said Tom Vilsack, U.S. secretary of agriculture, during a news conference with media and pork producers at the World Pork Expo in Des Moines.

The two reportable diseases are porcine epidemic diarrhea virus and porcine deltacoronavirus.

Vilsack said the mandatory reporting order is necessary “because of (their) rapid spread and due to our lack of knowledge” of the diseases.

Still unknown is the pathway PEDv used to enter the U.S. There is also no vaccine, he said, that is consistently effective.

“I want everyone to understand,” Vilsack said, “this is not a human health issue.

“It’s an animal health issue.”

PEDv was first confirmed in the U.S. in May 2013 and PDCoV was confirmed in the U.S. in March.

According to the National Pork Producers Council, PEDv has killed an estimated 8 million pigs, mostly pre-weaned age, in the past 12 months. The disease is confirmed in 30 states with 6,600 farms infected.

Vilsack told a packed meeting room that the federal order does not restrict movement of pigs and does not require quarantining pigs.

USDA has made $26.2 million available to support producers and combat the diseases.

Assistance includes:

$11.1 million in cost-share funding for producers of infected herds to support biosecurity practices.

$3.9 million for USDA’s Agriculture Research Service to support development of vaccines.

$2.4 million to cooperative agreement funding for states to support management and control activities.

$2.4 million for diagnostic testing.

$1.5 million to National Animal Health Laboratory Network for genomic sequencing for newly positive herds.

$500,000 to herd veterinarians to develop and monitor disease management plans and sample collections.

Dr. Howard Hill, NPPC president and Iowa pork producer, said, “We’re hopeful the USDA plan will work.

“We still need to see the fine details of the of the program, but if USDA can focus a lot of the plan on researching and testing this devastating disease (PEDv) and help producers enhance their biosecurity, that would go a long way to helping us know how to control and prevent the virus.”

Vilsack did not specify what type of information would be required to file a report.

“USDA is only interested in where the breakouts are,” Vilsack said, and provide the response materials and follow-up to assure the management plan was being observed.

“I trust producers,” he said. “They know it’s in their best interest to work with us.

“Plus, they are going to get some help to develop management plans and biosecurity measures.”

U.S. Rep. Steve King, R-Kiron, told reporters today he’s uneasy about USDA’s mandatory reporting of virus infections.

“That’s a big reach for the federal government to do,” King said.

His primary concern is the confidentiality of the operation with an infection of either PEDv or PDCoV.

He said that in 2006, when he was helping to write legislation on animal identification law, “the pork producers had a great concern with groups opposed to animal agriculture getting specific farm operation data on a Freedom of Information request.

“The federal government has had trouble keeping such information confidential in the past,” King said. “They should have come to Congress and asked for the protection needed for confidentiality.”

King said he would prefer to see each state’s state veterinarian to deal with outbreaks, rather than the federal government getting involved.