Hawaii has identified its first outbreak of a deadly pig virus that emerged in the continental United States last year, confounding officials who are uncertain how the disease arrived over thousands of miles of ocean.
The state confirmed Porcine Epidemic Diarrhea virus (PEDv) on a farm on Oahu, the most populous Hawaiian island, on Nov. 20, according to the Hawaii Department of Agriculture.
Farmers and the federal government have been working to contain PEDv since it was first detected in the United States in the spring of 2013. The virus has killed at least 8 million pigs, roughly 10 percent of the U.S. hog population. PEDv was previously found in parts of Asia and Europe. It is unknown how it came to the United States.
Hawaii had toughened import requirements for live pigs in July in a bid to prevent the spread of PEDv, banning infected hogs and requiring tests for PEDv prior to shipping.
State officials do not know how PEDv arrived on their shores and are testing animal feed from the infected farm to try to determine whether it may have transmitted the virus, acting State Veterinarian Isaac Maeda said in a telephone interview Monday.
“We live out in the ocean,” Maeda said. “A lot of things you see on the continental U.S., we don’t see out here.”
Chances of determining how PEDv arrived in Hawaii are “not looking very promising,” he added.
The outbreak occurred on a farm with about 150 pigs, and about 25 percent died, according to Hawaii’s agriculture department. Veterinarians sent samples from the farm to the Kansas State University Veterinary Diagnostic Laboratory, which confirmed the PEDv infection.
“It was surprising because it was a long distance from your traditional swine channels,” Tom Burkgren, executive director of the American Association of Swine Veterinarians, said about the outbreak.
The farm did not use feed containing porcine plasma, which has been suspected of spreading PEDv, Maeda said.
MILWAUKEE >> A virus never before seen in the U.S. has killed millions of baby pigs in less than a year, and with little known about how it spreads or how to stop it, it’s threatening pork production and pushing up prices by 10 percent or more.
Estimates vary, but one economist believes case data indicate more than 6 million piglets in 27 states have died since porcine epidemic diarrhea showed up in the U.S. last May. A more conservative estimate from the U.S. Department of Agriculture shows the nation’s pig herd has shrunk at least 3 percent to about 63 million pigs since the disease appeared.
Scientists think the virus, which does not infect humans or other animals, came from China, but they don’t know how it got into the country. The federal government is looking into how such viruses might spread, while the pork industry, wary of future outbreaks, has committed $1.7 million to research the disease.
The U.S. is both a top producer and exporter of pork, but production could decline about 7 percent this year compared to last — the biggest drop in more than 30 years, according to a recent report from Rabobank, which focuses on the food, beverage and agribusiness industries.
Already, prices have shot up: A pound of bacon averaged $5.46 in February, 13 percent more than a year ago, according to the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics.
Hawaii’s beef market is backward. Nearly all the beef eaten here — 95 percent — arrives packaged on container ships from the U.S. mainland. At the same time, Hawaii cattle ranchers ship 40,000 live cattle each year to California, Kansas and other states, while just 4,000 are slaughtered for meat sales in Hawaii.
The economics made sense for decades. Huge slaughterhouses elsewhere could process beef more efficiently than smaller ones in Hawaii, and it’s cheaper to send cattle to the mainland to be fattened than to bring in corn or other grains to feed calves after they’re weaned.
Now, national interest in locally grown food and grass-fed beef has caught on in Hawaii — offering ranchers plenty of reason to escape this paradox. But the opportunity comes as crushing drought has made it difficult to keep enough cattle here to capitalize on the demand.
Rancher and veterinarian Dr. Tim Richards has been trying for six years to raise more cattle on his family’s century-old ranch. He holds back some calves he previously would have sent to Oregon, Texas or elsewhere for final feeding, or “finishing.” But eight years of below-normal rainfall have left little grass for the cattle to eat.
“You put them out, and then it doesn’t rain and then instead of growing, they just sort of stand around,”
BEIJING – CHINA must adopt a holistic approach to addressing food safety challenges connected to the risk of contracting infectious diseases from contact with animals, the World Health Organisation (WHO) has said.
Peter Ben Embarek, food safety officer at WHO’s China office, said the country faces risks connected to the need to produce more meat, eggs and milk to feed its growing population. He said the increased production will ramp up the risk of people being infected by food-borne diseases because of poor slaughtering oversight and the absence of proper surveillance and inspection systems.
About 50 per cent of pigs in China are slaughtered outside of formal facilities without the inspection of veterinarians or food safety officers. He said poorly trained producers have little or no awareness of food safety or the risk of animal diseases being passed on to humans.
Such an environment could lead to the emergence of a new pandemic of influenza.
HONOLULU – The state is reminding livestock owners that they have until the end of the month to re-register their brands or lose their rights to them.
Hawaii law requires livestock owners to register their brand every five years to secure its validity and individuality.
The state Department of Agriculture said Thursday that there were 700 registered brands in Hawaii between 2005 and 2010, but only 425 have re-registered their brands.
The department’s Livestock Disease Control Branch manager and veterinarian, Jason Moniz, said owners may potentially lose the right to their brand if they don’t reregister by Dec. 31.
Owners should contact the Livestock Disease Control Branch for more information.