The U.S. Department of Agriculture is now requiring hog farmers to report outbreaks of a viral disease that has spread across the country and killed thousands of pigs in the past year. Porcine epidemic diarrhea virus or PED, has not previously been considered a “reportable” disease in part because it doesn’t pose a food safety or human health threat.
Iowa State University veterinarian Rodney Baker says the reporting requirement may be too little too late. “Reporting itself doesn’t help us with the disease at all, unless there’s some action taken through the reporting process that prevents the spread of the disease,” Baker says. Baker says it’s not yet clear whether the department will take further action. And, he says, scientists still don’t understand all the ways the virus can spread. But he says the reporting requirement may improve the accuracy of loss estimates, which until now relied on voluntary reporting.
The U.S.D.A. now requires mandatory reporting for two strains of PED and the swine delta coronavirus. All three are believed to have come from Asia. Baker says required reporting does increase the paper trail as hogs are moved throughout the country and could lead to a more accurate number of losses from the diseases. “It may be too little too late but we certainly need to get this in place, knowing that these diseases managed to get through our border biosecurity tells us that there’s a lot of other ones out there that could affect trade,” according to Baker.
Baker says U.S. pork producers earn 20 to 25 percent of their income from the export market. Since PED and delta coronavirus don’t threaten the food supply, Baker thinks U.S.D.A. may have been reluctant to require reporting. For now, the reporting change doesn’t call for restrictions on movement or trade.