Diarrhea affects pigs like people: Symptoms that are uncomfortable in adults become life-threatening in newborns that dehydrate quickly. The best chance at saving young pigs is to wean them and then pump them with clear fluids that hydrate them without taxing their intestines. But nothing could be done for the youngest ones except euthanasia.
“It’s very difficult for the people who are working the barns at that point,” Rowles said. “... No one wants to go to work today and think about making the decision of baby pigs that need to be humanely euthanized because they can’t get up anymore. Those are very hard days.”
PED thrives in cold weather, so the death toll in the U.S. has soared since December.
The first reports came from the Midwest, and the states most affected are those with the largest share of the nation’s pigs: Iowa, Minnesota, North Carolina and Illinois. The disease also has spread to Canada and Mexico.
Some states now require a veterinarian to certify that pigs coming in are virus-free, while China has asked the U.S. Department of Agriculture to similarly vouch for animals shipped overseas.
Companies are racing to develop a vaccine, but the federal government has yet to approve one. While the mass deaths have been a blow for farmers, the financial impact to them may be limited because pork prices are rising to make up for the loss of animals.
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