PED Epidemic Death Toll Reaches 5 Million, Hog Industry Scrambles for Solutions
An estimated 5 million hogs have died since the Porcine Epidemic Diarrhea Virus (PEDv) was discovered last May, and federal officials along with industry experts are scrambling to control the continued spread of the disease, reports Reuters.
This slideshow exposes the reckless disposal practices of an industrialized swine facility in North Carolina hit with the PED virus. Warning: The slideshow contains graphic images that may be unsuitable for some viewers.
Confirmed PEDv cases increased by 296 during last week alone, bringing the total number to 4,757, according to data released on Thursday by the U.S. Department of Agriculture's National Animal Health Laboratory Network (NAHLN). The discrepancy between the relatively small amount of cases and the high death toll is that one case can represent an individual animal or an entire herd at one site.
To stem the spread, U.S. and Canadian hog industries recently developed partnerships to research whether feed or feed ingredients factored into the transmission of PEDv, the National Pork Board said this week. The report from NAHLN does not include test results from feed samples.
Even though the disease is spreading, the number of affected states remains at 27, the animal researchers said.
"Unfortunately it has spread rapidly this winter, especially here in Ohio," Duane Stateler, Ohio Pork Council president and hog producer, told Reuters.
PEDv, which doesn't directly affect people and is not a food safety risk, causes diarrhea, vomiting and severe dehydration in pigs. While older pigs have a chance of survival, 80 to 100 percent of piglets die from the virus.
"The smaller the pig the harder it is for them to recover and come back," added Stateler.
The spread of the virus has already decreased market ready hog supply in the Midwest and along the East Coast, forcing some pork packing plants to cut back their slaughter operations.
Midwest pork packing facilities are weighing several options of either cutting the work week, trimming daily operating hours or eliminating overtime in order to reduce overall production.
Last week, Smithfield Foods suspended hog slaughter at its Tar Heel, NC, plant, which has a high slaughter capacity, as PEDv has tightened hog supplies.
Last month, Waterkeeper Alliance and North Carolina Riverkeepers called on the state's Commissioner of Agriculture, Steve Troxler, to protect public and environmental health against the swine industry’s handling of the PEDv outbreak.
Burying dead pigs in mass graves is common practice in mass casualty events, and Waterkeepers has raised concerns that areas of the coastal plain, where most infected swine facilities are located, stand a high risk of shallow groundwater and nearby waterway contamination.
“While we understand that PED cannot be directly transmitted to humans, the massive numbers of pigs that have died from this virus pose a significant concern to the public health if not disposed of properly,” said Gray Jernigan, North Carolina-based staff attorney for Waterkeeper Alliance. “There is currently little to no government oversight of carcass disposal in the midst of this epidemic, and we are calling on the state to take action as authorized by law to protect the citizens of North Carolina.”
Visit EcoWatch’s HEALTH pages for more related news on this topic.
At first glance, you wouldn't think avocados and almonds could harm bees; but a closer look at how these popular crops are produced reveals their potentially detrimental effect on pollinators.
Migratory beekeeping involves trucking millions of bees across the U.S. to pollinate different crops, including avocados and almonds. Timothy Paule II / Pexels / CC0<p>According to <a href="https://www.fromthegrapevine.com/israeli-kitchen/beekeeping-how-to-keep-bees" target="_blank">From the Grapevine</a>, American avocados also fully depend on bees' pollination to produce fruit, so farmers have turned to migratory beekeeping as well to fill the void left by wild populations.</p><p>U.S. farmers have become reliant upon the practice, but migratory beekeeping has been called exploitative and harmful to bees. <a href="https://www.cnn.com/2019/05/10/health/avocado-almond-vegan-partner/index.html" target="_blank">CNN</a> reported that commercial beekeeping may injure or kill bees and that transporting them to pollinate crops appears to negatively affect their health and lifespan. Because the honeybees are forced to gather pollen and nectar from a single, monoculture crop — the one they've been brought in to pollinate — they are deprived of their normal diet, which is more diverse and nourishing as it's comprised of a variety of pollens and nectars, Scientific American reported.</p><p>Scientific American added how getting shuttled from crop to crop and field to field across the country boomerangs the bees between feast and famine, especially once the blooms they were brought in to fertilize end.</p><p>Plus, the artificial mass influx of bees guarantees spreading viruses, mites and fungi between the insects as they collide in midair and crawl over each other in their hives, Scientific American reported. According to CNN, some researchers argue that this explains why so many bees die each winter, and even why entire hives suddenly die off in a phenomenon called colony collapse disorder.</p>
Avocado and almond crops depend on bees for proper pollination. FRANK MERIÑO / Pexels / CC0<p>Salazar and other Columbian beekeepers described "scooping up piles of dead bees" year after year since the avocado and citrus booms began, according to Phys.org. Many have opted to salvage what partial colonies survive and move away from agricultural areas.</p><p>The future of pollinators and the crops they help create is uncertain. According to the United Nations, nearly half of insect pollinators, particularly bees and butterflies, risk global extinction, Phys.org reported. Their decline already has cascading consequences for the economy and beyond. Roughly 1.4 billion jobs and three-quarters of all crops around the world depend on bees and other pollinators for free fertilization services worth billions of dollars, Phys.org noted. Losing wild and native bees could <a href="https://www.ecowatch.com/wild-bees-crop-shortage-2646849232.html" target="_self">trigger food security issues</a>.</p><p>Salazar, the beekeeper, warned Phys.org, "The bee is a bioindicator. If bees are dying, what other insects beneficial to the environment... are dying?"</p>
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