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Virus outbreak kills thousands of pigs in West Michigan: bacon prices rise

WEST MICHIGAN –A highly contagious virus that first entered the United States last year is now killing thousands of pigs in West Michigan.

While the porcine epidemic diarrhea virus (PED) leads to vomiting and diarrhea in adult pigs, according to the Centers for Disease Control, it primarily kills baby pigs.

Growing up on her family’s farm, Erin Ehinger of Holland, has spent countless hours working with the animals.  But, for the first year ever, she witnessed the devastating effects of PED after it claimed the life of thousands of baby pigs.

“It was amazing how fast they got sick and then we had another barn that had the same symptoms and they got really sick and dehydrated and within a couple of days the little babies started dying,” Ehinger said.

According to the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics, bacon prices have increased by more than 13 percent. In a report issued by Rabobank, PED has impacted nearly 60 percent of the breeding herd in the U.S.

“It has been awful on people because we are pig farmers and we love caring for our pigs and we do our best everyday to make sure they’re healthy and well cared for and just to come in and see sick pigs is really hard on people,” Ehinger said.

The virus passes from pig to pig, or from the hands and clothing of humans. Eginger said she’s not sure how the virus entered the farm but that it’s also had a big impact on the family business.

“We raise pigs so that we can produce pork and when pigs die we can’t sell pigs for pork,”Ehinger said.  “It was a big deal we lost about 3 weeks of pigs.”

While the virus is fatal in pigs it can not be passed to humans and the meat is safe for consumption.

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