State says pig virus found on 93 farms in Michigan

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KALAMAZOO, Mich. (AP) — A virus that kills piglets at an alarming rate has been found on 93 farms in Michigan, the state agriculture department says.

Jennifer Holton, spokeswoman for the Michigan Department of Agriculture and Rural Development, said porcine epidemic diarrhea is deadly to newborn pigs but does not affect the safety of pork nor is it a human health concern.

Still, it is a major economic worry for Michigan's swine industry, Holton told the Kalamazoo Gazette for a story Tuesday (http://bit.ly/RmzAZG ), adding that her department is working with farmers and veterinarians to try to reduce the spread and impact of the virus.

Scientists think PED came from China, but they do not know how it got into the U.S. or spread to more than half the country's states since last spring. The federal government is looking into how such viruses might spread, while the pork industry has committed $1.7 million to research the virus.

Estimates of how many pigs have died vary. The U.S. Department of Agriculture recently said the die-off has had a hand in shrinking the nation's pig herd by 3 percent to about 63 million pigs. The virus thrives in cold weather, so the death toll in the U.S. has soared since December.

It is not a disease farmers are required to report, but as of last week, agriculture officials knew of 93 farms in Michigan affected by it, Holton said.

The effects of the virus already have driven up the price of pork, especially bacon. Sam Hines, executive vice president of the Michigan Pork Producers Association, expects that trend to continue.

Older pigs contract it but get over it, and some farmers have turned to purposely exposing their healthy sows to others that have the disease prior to farrowing to help build natural immunity, Hines said.

Unfortunately, "there is very little you can do," he said.

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Information from: Kalamazoo Gazette, http://www.mlive.com/kalamazoo

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