The Porcine Epidemic Diarrhea Virus, commonly known as P.E.D is essentially a death sentence for pigs three weeks old or younger. And while the mortality rate continues to climb, so do pork prices.
P.E.D. is not a risk to human health, but is a risk to human emotion.
"You go from shipping out happy, healthy pigs, to carrying out dead pigs. Your workers, the toll on them is tremendous," said Pork Council Executive Director, Roy Lee Lindsey.
As executive director of the Oklahoma Pork Council, Lindsey has seen the death toll climb like never before, estimating farmers who have been impacted lose every pig born for 3-5 weeks.
"This virus is far more active and far more aggressive," said Lindsey.
"A piece of feces the size of your pencil eraser can affect 130 cubic feet," said veterinarian Dr. Michael Tripp, who also serves on the National Swine Registry executive board.
Currently over 8% of Oklahoma's pigs have been affected and Oklahoma's total inventory is at its lowest since 2001, so farmers on commercial farms are taking every precaution necessary. Tripp has handled the only reported case outside of the commercial farms, but warns show pig farmers need to stay alert.
"They have such severe diarrhea they go into shock and just die," said Tripp.
The USDA has approved a conditional vaccine, but it won't help pork prices, which are also at an all-time high: Just over $4.00/lb. Lindsey expects the price to increase 10-12% by August.
"When you combine low supply with higher export demand and higher export demand across the world, you get paid a higher price for your product," said Lindsey.
Tripp recommends some simple ways to try to prevent the virus. If you go to a pig show, make sure you shower and change clothes before you feed your own pigs. Other tips include cleaning trucks, disinfecting farms and limiting the movement of people and animals on farms.
The vaccine is conditional, so it's not expected to prevent the virus, but can make it can make P.E.D. less severe.