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Iowa Hog Farmers Work Hard To Prevent Virus

MUSCATINE, IOWA (CBS2/FOX28) - Its been nearly a year since the first case ever of a deadly swine virus was found in the United States. Now the Iowa Pork Producers estimate that porcine epidemic diarrhea virus or PEDV has killed nearly two million pigs in Iowa.

Farmers throughout the state aren't taking any chances with their swine herds.

"Nothing comes on this farm as far as a truck or transportation device other than the ones we own," Mike Deahr with Pork 360 in Muscatine said.

Mike runs a hog farm in Muscatine, and it really is off limits. He said it's a necessary precaution to protect his pigs from PEDV.

"We moved our worker parking lot further way from their office and they all put on plastic boots out of their vehicle and wear them to the office," Mike said.

That's where Deahr's workers encounter the disease barrier.  That's something Mike and his wife, Sue, said divides the dirty and clean sides of the farm.

"They sit down, take their shoes off, leave their booties on, swivel on the bench without their feet touching, and then go into their showers and shower in and shower out," Mike said while describing the process. Cell phones aren't even allowed on the farm.

Back in November, Mike's neighbor lost all of his piglets to the virus over a six week period. The virus can also create long term problems. Sows have trouble with conception, and often don't come into heat well.

"There's no way you can understand if you haven't seen such a thing affect an animal. It's very disheartening," Mike said.

The virus has killed millions of pigs already.  With nearly 40 percent of the confirmed US deaths in Iowa, The disease is hard to track, as it is non reportable. It's also easily transmitted and can survive on tiny bits of manure and travel on boots or trucks. While adult pigs can usually survive the virus, nearly all piglets die because they can't fight the dehydration that comes from the diarrhea, that's why Mike said all the hog farmers he knows are banning visitors. He hopes it will be enough to keep the virus off his farm. So far, the Deahrs have been lucky.

"We are one of less than 10 percent of the sow herds in Iowa that have not had this, thus, it's why we have such stringent bio security. I have been so lucky not to have this disease yet. That's why our disease protocols are so stringent," Mike said.

Sue Deahr said the virus has changed their way of life.

"I don't think we're ever going to let outside people on the farm again," Sue said.

While PEDV can be deadly for young pigs, it doesn't affect people. People also can't get sick from eating an affected pig.

The virus is already driving pork prices up throughout the US.
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