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U.S. pork industry increases funding to fight spreading pig virus

CHICAGO (Reuters) - A leading U.S. pork association said on Monday it will spend an additional $350,000 to combat a virus that kills young pigs, bringing the pork industry's total outlay this year to nearly $900,000.

The National Pork Board said the $350,000 is in addition to the $527,000 provided by the Pork Board and the Iowa Pork Producers Association in early June.

As of mid July, 346 farm sites in 14 states have reported cases of Porcine Epidemic Diarrhea Virus (PEDV), with most in Iowa and Oklahoma, according to the National Animal Health Lab Network.

"Our No. 1 priority is to contain spread of the virus with the goal of increasing the potential to eliminate the disease," Paul Sundberg, vice president of science and technology for the National Pork Board, said in the release.

PEDV, a swine-only disease, it poses no threat to humans or other animals and pork from infected pigs is safe for human consumption. It is not a trade-restricting disease.

The virus, first reported in the United States in mid May, typically does not kill older pigs. But, mortality among young pigs is commonly 50 percent and as high as 100 percent, said veterinarians and scientists studying the outbreak.

How PEDV found its way to the United States is not yet known and no cases have been reported in Canada or Mexico. In late June, Mexico cited the spread of the virus in the United States for it restricting imports of U.S. live hogs.

No direct link has been found between the U.S. cases and those found in Asia and Europe, according to scientists and researchers.

The total number of U.S. pig deaths from the outbreak is not known. Still, some industry analysts and traders have speculated that at least 500,000 piglets have died, which could reduce year-end hog supplies.

Steve Meyer, president of Iowa-based Paragon Economics and a consultant to the National Pork Board, said in a client newsletter last week the disease may have claimed "60,000 to 100,000 (pigs) in each of the last three weeks of June." The shortfall would represent fewer hogs that would have come to market in December.

"With about 2.35 million head of hogs expected each week in December, these losses could reduce supplies by 2.5 to 4.2 percent. Such reductions do not constitute a supply emergency but they may certainly have an impact," said Meyer.

(Reporting Theopolis Waters; Editing by Bob Burgdorfer)

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