DES MOINES - It's called porcine epidemic diarrhea virus and it was diagnosed in Iowa pig herds in mid-May.
It's almost always deadly to young pigs three weeks or younger.
"It's a real concern in the industry," said Gregg Hora, of Fort Dodge, president of the Webster County Pork Producers. Hora was perusing the exhibitor tents on Wednesday at the World Pork Expo at the Iowa State Fairgrounds in Des Moines.
"I've heard concerns expressed all up and down the street," Hora said of the exhibitors lining both sides of Grand Avenue on the fairgrounds. "The worse hit is on pigs four weeks and younger because they are just coming out of the nursery.
"So they have moving stress, pecking order stress and then if you add a virus, and they go off their feed, well ..."
PEDV is a production-related disease that causes dehydration in pigs.
Hora said it is similar to another virus that used to plague producers called TGE, or transmissible gastroenteritis, but has differences and, so far, there is no vaccine.
"We have to keep them hydrated," Hora said, "and give pigs extra electrolytes so they can have better nutrition absorption."
The National Pork Board announced Wednesday that it has dedicated $450,000 in Pork Check-off funds in researching the source and treatment protocol for PEDV.
"Since PEDV is widespread in many countries, it is not a trade-restricting disease," said Dr. Paul Sundberg, the Pork Checkoff's vice president of science and technology.
Because this virus will have TGE-type symptoms, Sundberg said, "producers should work with their herd veterinarians immediately, and, as always, maintain strict biosecurity protocols."
Derrick Sleezer, a producer from Cherokee, and treasurer of the National Pork Producers Council, said Iowa is the latest of Upper Midwest states where PEDV has been detected. Others include Minnesota, Illinois and Indiana.
"We don't have any information about where it is in Iowa," Sleezer said. "Some of that has to do with confidentiality."
He said cleaning and disinfecting everything that comes in contact with pigs is one step in biosecurity that will help to cut the risks of PEDV infection in a herd.
PEDV, Sundberg told reporters at the Expo, is not a regulatory or reportable disease. Although high mortality will occur in very young pigs, old pigs may get sick, but have a higher recovery rate.
The NPB's swine health committee will oversee the PEDV research to get information to producers about the spread and transmission of the virus, along with better tools for detecting, diagnosing, preventing and controlling it.
Sundberg said this research effort will be partnered with the American Association of Swine Veterinarians, the National Pork Producers Council and state pork organizations.
"As with all of our research," said Conley Nelson, president of the National Pork Board and Algona-area producer, "we want to be transparent and objective.
"And in this case, it must be very specific with quick turnaround times so that we can get answers quickly."