A pig virus that has killed more than 8 million American hogs is lifting pork prices. But there's more to think about than expensive ham and bacon.
The deadly Porcine Epidemic Diarrhea virus—also known as PEDv—can't be contracted by humans. The disease, however, has raised awareness about making agricultural animals, and the global nature of our food supply, more secure.
Some experts believe the virus entered the U.S. through Asia. On Friday, lawmakers focused on the safety of food and feed imports from China. And The U.S. Congressional-Executive Commission on China has scheduled a hearing for Tuesday, NBCNews.com reports.
Beyond China, biosecurity measures—which entail protecting agricultural animals from infectious diseases—was a hot topic at the recent World Pork Expo in Des Moines, Iowa. Farmers and producers swapped stories about more frequent boot and truck washes, changing clothes and cordoning off traveling pigs.
The hog industry forecasts pork supplies and prices will be impacted into later this year. But some public health advocates are thinking beyond supply and demand. They argue PEDv shows confining animals against viral outbreaks is only part of a broader solution.
And while PEDv can't be contracted by people, some public health experts can't help but recall the 2011 Hollywood thriller "Contagion." The film was a fictional account of a virus that traverses continents.
"We've already had several examples of it," said Ellen Silbergeld, a professor at Johns Hopkins Bloomberg School of Public Health. The fictional MEV-1 in "Contagion" was based on a real-life Nipah pathogen that's linked to bats and pigs.
"The point is we have a global system of humans, animals and food that moves globally and that's not going to change," Silbergeld said. "It's one giant soup of disease."