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USDA considers mandatory reports of deadly pig virus outbreaks: industry group

By Tom Polansek and Meredith Davis

CHICAGO (Reuters) - The United States is considering rules that would require outbreaks of a deadly pig virus to be reported to the government in an effort to improve tracking of the disease, which has already spread to 30 states, an industry group said on Monday.

Porcine Epidemic Diarrhea virus (PEDv) has killed millions of baby pigs since it was first detected in the United States a year ago. PEDv has crimped hog supplies in the United States and sent prices to record highs. It remains unclear how the virus entered the country, and farmers have struggled to find ways to contain it.

The U.S. Department of Agriculture (USDA) has discussed the option of mandatory reporting with the American Association of Swine Veterinarians, said Tom Burkgren, executive director of the association.

PEDv, which is nearly always fatal in piglets, has been difficult to track in part because veterinarians are not required to alert government officials of its presence.

USDA is "currently evaluating additional options for addressing this virus," a spokeswoman said in an email without elaborating.

The veterinarians' association has been publishing weekly data on outbreaks, based on voluntary reports, since PEDv was first discovered in the United States. The virus does not affect humans. Burkgren said it may be too late for mandatory reporting to have significant benefits to the livestock industry.

"You've got a very widely distributed disease," he said. "At this point in the outbreak, I think we'd have to see some really good reasons to start reporting it."

Further discussions with the USDA are expected later this week, Burkgren said, adding that the government had not yet given details on how mandatory reports could potentially be used.

Mandatory reporting is already used for viruses such as African swine fever and foot-and-mouth disease. The USDA can quarantine animals with African swine fever and restrict the movement of infected animals.

(Editing by Lisa Shumaker)

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