Mutating New Pig Virus Expected to Kill Millions of Baby Pigs and Cripple Pork Industry

Mutating New Pig Virus Expected to Kill Millions of Baby Pigs and Cripple Pork Industry

It may be time to give up your bacon obsession voluntarily before you’re forced to, as a mutating pig virus is expected to keep mutating and take millions of pigs lives in the process, driving up the price of pork products and leading to possible shortages.

The pig virus is the third identified strain of Porcine Epidemic Diarrhea virus (PEDv), considered to be as infectious as the original strain of the disease that first appeared in the U.S. in 2013. While a second strain of the pig virus was also identified, it was less contagious than the first. But that doesn’t appear to be the case with the third. Experts aren’t sure if the new strain of the pig virus is a mutation or existed undetected alongside the other strains.

Experts believe the pig virus has mutated “in response to increased immunity in herds,” Reuters reports. And Douglas Marthaler, assistant professor of veterinary population medicine at the University of Minnesota, explained to Reuters that it is “the nature” of viruses like PEDv to evolve and mutate in replication. “The virus is always changing,” Marthaler said.

PEDv has already killed some 8 million pigs in the last two years. That is “roughly 10 percent of the U.S. hog population,” according to Reuters. “The pork supply reduction was largely responsible for pushing prices to record highs.”

According to Reuters, “Researchers previously determined that PEDv can spread from pig to pig by contact with manure, which contains the virus. It can also be spread from farm to farm on trucks.”

Containment is easier said than done, particularly in industrial hog settings where the animals are densely packed and manure spreads easily.

PEDv is not a threat to humans or food safety, meaning it’s not a risk in consuming contaminated pork products. But with the mutating virus showing no signs of slowing down, it could mean fewer and more expensive pork products and pork producers cutting corners to meet demand, which could pose some safety risks.

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Jill Ettinger

Jill Ettinger is a Los Angeles-based journalist and editor focused on the global food system and how it intersects with our cultural traditions, diet preferences, health, and politics. She is the senior editor for sister websites OrganicAuthority.com and EcoSalon.com, and works as a research associate and editor with the Cornucopia Institute, the organic industry watchdog group. Jill has been featured in The Huffington Post, MTV, Reality Sandwich, and Eat Drink Better. www.jillettinger.com.