The disease that killed a million piglets in China has spread to the US, and no one knows why

The disease that killed a million piglets in China has spread to the US, and no one knows why

By Heather Timmons 12 hours ago

America’s pork industry has been gripped by an outbreak of porcine diarrhea since mid-May, the first appearance of the condition in North America. US farmers havereported 768 cases of the disease, known as porcine epidemic diarrhea virus (PEDV), through the first week of October, which implies that many more thousands of animals could be affected. Although the disease is not transferable to humans, it has been devastating for the US pork industry. It causes severe “watery diarrhea and vomiting in nursing pigs,” according to information from the US’s National Pork Board. Almost all the piglets who get the disease die because of it, and farmers are reportedly filling “wheelbarrows of dead piglets.”Now researchers at the Virginia-Maryland Regional College of Veterinary Medicine at Virginia Tech say they’ve traced the virus back to eastern China’s Anhui province. Anhui is one of China’s major pig-farming areas, home to companies like the fast-growing Anhui Antai Agricultural Industry Group, which slaughtered 500,000 pigs last year.

Pinpointing the origin of the virus isn’t going to provide much reassurance to US farmers. Years after it spread in China, it still hasn’t been controlled.

Reports of PEDV outbreaks in China and Europe are not new, and have been mostly controlled with vaccination over the years. But starting in 2010, China suffered a severe outbreak of PEDV that killed more than 1 million piglets in less than two years. Scientists said the Chinese death toll was thanks to new vaccine-resistant strains of the disease.

Anhui is a neighboring province to Shanghai, where thousands of dead pigs were discovered floating in the Huangpu River earlier this year, and had its own floating dead pig incidents. The Huangpu river pigs deaths have been attributed to “Porcine circovirus,” although some dead pigs found in the area also tested positive for PEDV, China’s state-run Global Times reported in March. Of the 36 samples tested by the Animal Disease Control Center in Zhejiang Province, 16 contained porcine circovirus and seven tested positive for porcine epidemic diarrhea virus, the paper reported.

In April, Shanghai Jiaotong University ‘s Agriculture Sciences School published a research paper saying piglet diarrhea was still causing serious harm to China’s pig-breeding industry, and identifying it as the cause of pig deaths in Shanghai this spring.

How the disease traveled from Anhui to North America remains a mystery. The US and Canada both ban on pork imports from China, as Nature magazine explained in July:

Although researchers know that the virus can be transported in faeces, they do not know how long it can survive outside pigs’ intestines, so it is unclear if a dirty boot, a contaminated package or an illegal import carried PEDV into the country.

About bambooinnovator
Kee Koon Boon (“KB”) is the co-founder and director of HERO Investment Management which provides specialized fund management and investment advisory services to the ARCHEA Asia HERO Innovators Fund (www.heroinnovator.com), the only Asian SMID-cap tech-focused fund in the industry. KB is an internationally featured investor rooted in the principles of value investing for over a decade as a fund manager and analyst in the Asian capital markets who started his career at a boutique hedge fund in Singapore where he was with the firm since 2002 and was also part of the core investment committee in significantly outperforming the index in the 10-year-plus-old flagship Asian fund. He was also the portfolio manager for Asia-Pacific equities at Korea’s largest mutual fund company. Prior to setting up the H.E.R.O. Innovators Fund, KB was the Chief Investment Officer & CEO of a Singapore Registered Fund Management Company (RFMC) where he is responsible for listed Asian equity investments. KB had taught accounting at the Singapore Management University (SMU) as a faculty member and also pioneered the 15-week course on Accounting Fraud in Asia as an official module at SMU. KB remains grateful and honored to be invited by Singapore’s financial regulator Monetary Authority of Singapore (MAS) to present to their top management team about implementing a world’s first fact-based forward-looking fraud detection framework to bring about benefits for the capital markets in Singapore and for the public and investment community. KB also served the community in sharing his insights in writing articles about value investing and corporate governance in the media that include Business Times, Straits Times, Jakarta Post, Manual of Ideas, Investopedia, TedXWallStreet. He had also presented in top investment, banking and finance conferences in America, Italy, Sydney, Cape Town, HK, China. He has trained CEOs, entrepreneurs, CFOs, management executives in business strategy & business model innovation in Singapore, HK and China.

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