Dr Manny's Notes

Dr. Manny: Despite piglet virus, pork is safe to eat

Newborn piglets suckle at Whiteshire Hamroc farm in Albion, Indiana March 16, 2012. The animals here at the Whiteshire Hamroc farm have been bred for one purpose: to be flown halfway around the world, on a journey fueled by China's appetite for food independence. In a country where pork is a culinary staple, the demand for a protein-rich diet is growing faster than Chinese farmers can keep up. While Americans cut back on meat consumption to the lowest levels seen in two decades, the Chinese now eat nearly 10 percent more meat than they did five years ago. Picture taken March 16, 2012. To match INSIGHT USA-CHINA/FOOD   REUTERS/John Gress (UNITED STATES - Tags: FOOD AGRICULTURE BUSINESS ANIMALS) - RTR30Z07

Newborn piglets suckle at Whiteshire Hamroc farm in Albion, Indiana March 16, 2012. The animals here at the Whiteshire Hamroc farm have been bred for one purpose: to be flown halfway around the world, on a journey fueled by China's appetite for food independence. In a country where pork is a culinary staple, the demand for a protein-rich diet is growing faster than Chinese farmers can keep up. While Americans cut back on meat consumption to the lowest levels seen in two decades, the Chinese now eat nearly 10 percent more meat than they did five years ago. Picture taken March 16, 2012. To match INSIGHT USA-CHINA/FOOD REUTERS/John Gress (UNITED STATES - Tags: FOOD AGRICULTURE BUSINESS ANIMALS) - RTR30Z07  (REUTERS/John Gress)

There has been a lot of news regarding this new virus that has been affecting the U.S. pork industry.  The disease has spread to farms in 22 states, killing thousands of small pigs and therefore, driving up prices.

According to the Wall Street Journal, lean-hog futures rose to a 7-week high a week ago, up 6 percent since mid-December.

In the wake of this news, there’s one concern a lot of people may be having: Is this virus dangerous to humans?

I want to be very clear about this: The porcine epidemic diarrhea virus - or the PED virus - is a type of a coronavirus that is unique to the porcine species.  This disease affects pigs by giving them gastroenteritis, an infection of the intestines that leads to diarrhea and dehydration. The virus is especially dangerous for small piglets, and it’s highly contagious - like any viral disease.

So the good news is it does not affect humans in any way, shape or form.  In fact, the virus does not affect any other animal.  

Pork meat is safe to eat, and therefore, consumers should not be afraid to continue eating pig products that are being sold in U.S. supermarkets.

Like any other meat product, proper food hygiene and cooking procedures are still relevant, but don't be afraid as you hear stories about PED that this virus could affect your health or the health of your family.

Dr. Manny Alvarez serves as Fox News Channel's senior managing health editor. He also serves as chairman of the department of obstetrics/gynecology and reproductive science at Hackensack University Medical Center in New Jersey. For more information on Dr. Manny's work, visit AskDrManny.com.