Devastating Swine Disease Hasn't Struck in Nebraska Yet

But UNL specialist urges pork producers to take precautionary steps, especially when hauling animals.

Published on: Aug 19, 2013

Nebraska hasn't experienced the devastating swine disease that's hitting the country—Porcine Epidemic Diarrhea--but it's already forcing bacon prices nationwide to new highs.

The University of Nebraska-Lincoln's Veterinary Diagnostic Center stands ready to test piglets for the Porcine Epidemic Diarrhea virus, according to Dr. Bruce Brodersen, assistant professor in the center and the School of Veterinary Medicine and Biological Sciences.

Porcine Epidemic Diarrhea, PED for short, has been around since at least the 1970s but first showed up in the U.S. this summer.

"Since the swine population has never been exposed before to this virus, they're very susceptible," Brodersen says. "The disease outbreaks are very severe because there's no immunity to it at all. So, it's been devastating as far as pig mortality is concerned."

Devastating Swine Disease Hasnt Struck in Nebraska Yet
Devastating Swine Disease Hasn't Struck in Nebraska Yet

Brodersen believes PED will turn up in Nebraska eventually, but swine producers can take steps to avoid it coming to their facilities.

Surveys show PED may be spread when trucks gather anywhere there are common loading and unloading chutes such as buying stations.  From those common areas, the virus can be tracked back to individual operations. Brodersen urges producers to be very careful to clean their trailer or truck before they go home. "You should always follow very strict biosecurity steps," he says.

No vaccine is available in the U.S. yet.

Piglets infected with PED experience diarrhea and vomiting violent enough to kill them. USDA has confirmed only about 400 cases of the disease in the lab, but its toll has already been estimated in the hundreds of thousands.

As a result, pork price futures have risen to historic levels, with hundredweights of pork going for about $105 in recent trading at the Chicago Mercantile Exchange. The USDA reports that the same amount of pork went for $78 in March.

Fox Business News recently reported that the prices for pork bellies, which are cured into bacon, have risen particularly fast.