Deadly pig virus in check, Montana officials say.

2014-06-20T18:05:00Z 2014-06-20T23:46:18Z Deadly pig virus in check, Montana officials say.By TOM LUTEY The Billings Gazette

Two months after a deadly pig virus reached Montana, officials say the outbreak that has devastated other states is in check here.

"We still just have the two cases," said Dr. Tahnee Szymanski, assistant state veterinarian. "We're not handling it really any differently. We're still advising people that all swine could be infected."

The state Department of Livestock announced in April that two Montana pig farms had been hit by porcine epidemic diarrhea, or PED. The virus can kill 100 percent of a farm's suckling pigs. There are concerns the same would happen to Montana's $24.7 million hog industry, 95 percent of which is on Hutterite colonies.

The two cases reported in April were on colonies near Harlowton and Great Falls. The virus, spread by infected feces, has spread to 31 states, according the American Association of Swine Veterinarians. Grocery store pork prices have jumped as a result.

The outbreak in hard-hit states has also affected summer fairs, where children in 4H and FFA show their pigs. In Wisconsin, officials concerned about the virus have banned piglets from fairs.

But the Montana show pig circuit hasn't made any changes, said Mark King, statewide swine specialist from Sweet Grass County. People on the circuit are cautious and there is more paperwork involved in moving show pigs between states, which is a common practice. Competitors looking for a winning pig will travel as far as Nebraska in early spring to find a young contender.

King, who raises show pigs, said once his animals return from town, they're handled cautiously.

"For us, we just don't take them back to the original place. They go to a different barn about a mile away," Kind said. "We continue to hold them and evaluate them in quarantine for some time." 

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