The situation remains a cloudy one for the nation's pork industry as producers continue efforts to ward off the outbreaks of porcine epidemic diarrhea virus.
It's been a year since the first positive cases of the virus were discovered in the United States.
The latest figures, released on April 23, show more than 4 million pigs have died as a result of the disease in the U.S.
PEDv-infected herds are in 30 states, according to the US. Department of Agriculture's National Animal Health Laboratory, showing 6,019 reported positive testing cases.
Iowa continues to have the largest number of cases at 1,834.
Questions continue in the wake of U.S. Agriculture Secretary Tom Vilsack's April 18 order requiring all producers to report to USDA if they have PEDv infected pigs or have swine delta coronavirus.
The newly reported SDCV, found in January and early February on four Ohio hog operations, said Ohio Department of Agriculture spokespersons, does not infect humans or other species and is not a food safety risk.
Piglets and older pigs infected with the new coronavirus do, however, show symptoms similar to PEDv and transmissible gastroenteritis.
They added additional research is needed before determining that the new virus is cause of the symptoms.
Vilsack said his department is working with the pork industry on testing protocols and researching how PED is transmitted.
He said he's hopeful the new requirement will "help identify gaps" in biosecurity efforts by producers and other industry partners to help curtail the spread of the viruses and in learning how they are transmitted.
The new ruling can cut virus damages to producers and consumers, Vilsack said.
Dr. R. B. Baker, interim director of the Iowa Pork Industry Center, said he sees uncertainty remaining as to the effectiveness of the new federal order.
"A veterinary consultant friend of mine recently put it this way," Baker said, "'a good idea, 11 months too late.'
"My reaction is that while we really don't know what it means, often when the government comes to help it often doesn't work out so well."
Baker said researchers are still modeling how the virus seems to pop-up in herds at random.
It may be a good practice, Baker said, for the next disease that slips through U.S. borders.
"It may, in fact, put more focus on the pig-hauling vehicles that I feel have played a big role in PEDv spread," he said.
Baker added he's not optimistic on the new reporting requirement, pending more information from USDA.
"It may get credit in that since the virus has spread into more than half of the industry," Baker said, "its prevalence "should curb" the virus spread next fall and winter.
"The pork industry has earlier implemented a grand biosecurity training program which does appear to have had an impact on porcine reproductive and respiratory syndrome and other swine diseases.
"The bottom line, as I see it, is that when you make your mark doing 'rain dances' timing is everything. And the government has timing on its side"
Investigations continue, Baker said, into how the current trio of swine viruses got into the United States, Canada and Mexico.
He suggested that in the case of Canada, the virus was "likely tracked in" from the U. S., while those in Mexico could be from the same source responsible for the virus in the United States.
"I don't believe the USDA is looking very hard, but I don't know," he said. "I'm not privy to their conversations."
Asked if he feels newly developed vaccines are being successful relative to the PEDv virus control, he said, he sees "nothing working" for suckling pigs other than feedback and attempted elimination.
The April 23 report, Baker said, showed infections are, "falling dramatically," possibly due to warmer weather
The National Pork Board's Paul Sundberg, vice president of science and technology, earlier this month said, a $150,000 donation to the Pork Board by Cargill's animal nutrition and pork businesses is "a welcome addition" to funding from groups outside the board's check-off funding for additional PEDv research.
Sundberg said these include investigation of effectiveness of treatment costs to "mitigate survival" of PEDv and other viruses in feeds, assessing risks at all steps within the feed processing/delivery chain, developing a substitute for bioassay procedures, and investigating the risk of feed systems and other pathways for pathogen entry into the United States.