USDA's Animal and Plant Health Inspection Service says reusable cargo containers are among a few plausible ways the porcine epidemic diarrhea virus entered the United States.
APHIS released the findings in a root cause investigation report that outlines potential scenarios for how the Swine Enteric Coronavirus Disease viruses, including PEDV, entered the United States.
APHIS examined 17 potential root cause scenarios, looking to see if they meet all four criteria needed to bring the virus from an overseas location to U.S. pig farms, as well as if there was evidence to support the scenario.
While the investigation did not uncover definite proof for any route of entry, the scenario that best fit the criteria for virus entry into the U.S. was virus spread through reuse of contaminated Flexible Intermediate Bulk Containers.
FIBCs are commonly used to transport many types of material including sand for flood control, soybeans, pet treats, or almost any kind of bulk material. They are designed to be reused. It is not a common practice to clean and disinfect these FIBCs between uses in the United States.
Evidence collected as part of the investigation suggests that the FIBCs could be potentially contaminated in their origin country and, upon arrival in the United States, are likely being reused, APHIS said.
If a contaminated FIBC was used to transport bulk feed or ingredients to the swine feed mill networks, a small bit of contaminated material could have been mixed into feed destined for many locations and spread the virus onto farms.
APHIS said it completed follow-up testing in attempt to provide evidence for this scenario. This follow-up testing further supports the hypothesis that PEDV could easily remain stable through the time needed to travel to the United States and infect pigs.
The first cases of novel Swine Enteric Coronavirus Disease were confirmed in the U.S. in April 2013.
SECD viruses quickly spread to many swine premises throughout the country, killing 7 million piglets within the first year and causing tremendous hardship for many American pork producers.
APHIS, the states, and the swine industry have worked jointly to slow the spread of these diseases, including enhancing biosecurity practices.
APHIS also issued a Federal Order on June 5, 2014, requiring the reporting of SECD cases to assist with tracking and understanding these viruses. The number of new cases has dropped dramatically in the past year.