By Meredith Davis
(Reuters) - Concern among the top U.S. hog-producing states over a virus that is killing millions of baby pigs has reached such an extent that officials at an industry gathering in Minnesota this week swabbed the trade floor to test for the virus.
Meeting organizers in Iowa are relying on producers' knowledge of basic biosecurity measures to guard against spreading Porcine Epidemic Diarrhea virus, or PEDv.
The Iowa Pork Congress, billed as the country's largest winter swine trade show and conference, expects nearly 300 exhibitors and hundreds of hog producers to convene on Wednesday and Thursday in Des Moines.
"We feel that we've gotten the word out about PEDv and the need for increased biosecurity enough in the last year," said Ron Birkenholz, spokesman for Iowa Pork Producers.
PEDv has killed an estimated 1 million to 4 million pigs across the U.S. "Hog Belt," with cases reported in 23 states. South Carolina is the most recent state with confirmed cases, according to the USDA's National Animal Health Laboratory Network (NAHLN).
The virus, spread by fecal matter, can be transmitted by pigs as well as by inanimate objects such as boots, clothing and trucks. Other than increasing biosecurity measures, the U.S. pork industry is still grappling with means to contain the virus.
At the Minnesota Pork Congress in Minneapolis earlier this month, the trade show floor was swabbed during set up and on each of the two meeting days then tested for the Porcine Epidemic Diarrhea virus (PEDv).
The tests did not detect any evidence of the virus and pork producers were notified of results after the meeting, David Preisler, Minnesota Pork Board executive director, said in an e-mail on Tuesday.
As other states plan their annual pork conventions, a rite of winter just ahead of the spring breeding season, they are also mulling precautionary measures.
In Illinois, meeting organizers are still in discussion about what, if anything, they plan to do at the February 4-5 convention in Peoria.
"We're not sure if we will swab like Minnesota, but we have discussed possibly offering plastic boots" to those attending, said Tim Maiers, Illinois Pork Board spokesman.
"We are reaching out to other states and veterinarians to see what they've done and what they recommend. But it really comes down to basic biosecurity, like wearing clean shoes and clothes," Maiers said.
(Editing by G Crosse)