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Farms, officials seek to keep pig virus from Va.

Tuesday - 8/6/2013, 4:07am  ET

WASHINGTON - A new pig virus that has killed thousands of piglets is spreading across the country and has reached North Carolina from the Midwest states. Agricultural officials say efforts are under way to keep the virus out of Virginia.

"We are not aware of any cases of it in Virginia. Now, it is a highly contagious disease so there is always a chance that we could get it," says Elaine Lidholm, director of communications for the Virginia Department of Agriculture and Consumer Services.

The virus, known as porcine epidemic diarrhea virus or PEDV, does not pose a risk to humans or to food safety and has mainly killed nursing piglets.

If the virus enters Virginia, Lidholm says it shouldn't have as big an impact as it's had in states with major swine farrowing or birthing operations, such as those in North Carolina.

"North Carolina has a lot of farrowing operations where they are birthing the pigs there on the farm," Lidholm says. "For the most part, we take the pigs at about 40 pounds and raise them to market weight."

Lidholm says an easy way for the virus to spread would be through any combined farming operations in North Carolina and Virginia, and she says there are many such operations on the border between the states.

Virginia swine producers are being urged to take precautions against the virus. Farms are being asked to step-up bio-security measures and limit access to their farms, particularly to swine housing.

"Don't let anybody in who absolutely doesn't have to be there," Lidholm says.

Bio-security measures include the liberal use of disinfectants on items including footwear, farm equipment and even truck tires.

A spokeswoman for Smithfield Foods, the pork producer based in Smithfield, Va., says in a statement that the company has "implemented a comprehensive series of procedures" to prevent the possible spread of the virus, including monitoring Smithfield's bio-security practices and industry incidences of PEDV, especially near its sow farms.

"As a food producer, we take the health and well-being of our animals very seriously," the statement says.

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