By Sybille de La Hamaide
PARIS (Reuters) - A deadly pig virus that has decimated herds in the United States and sent prices rocketing is likely to subside before the end of this year as the causes are being identified, the head of the World Organisation for Animal Health (OIE) said.
Porcine Epidemic Diarrhoea virus (PEDv) has wiped out more than 10 percent of the U.S. pig population and forecasters have said losses from PEDv in the world's biggest pork exporter could cut production by as much as 7 percent in 2014.
"I'm confident. Like in all other diseases we know how to stop them once we have identified the causes properly," OIE Director General Bernard Vallat told Reuters.
He said the spread of the virus was likely mainly due to a lack of hygienic precautions, notably disinfecting trucks entering and leaving farms, but was also potentially linked to feed.
Vallat expected the disease to stabilize in the United States after a first wave mainly hit so-called "naive" herds which had not been previously exposed to the virus and had not developed antibodies.
"I expect it to subside before the end of the year," he said.
The European Union approved new rules this month aimed at limiting the spread of the virus, notably for pig blood products imported into the 28-member bloc, highlighting the risk of animal feed products as a potential transmission agent.
"There are high suspicions about these blood products which have been incorporated in feed and this is why Europe took it into account in its precaution measures," Vallat said.
Pig blood products are dehydrated and mixed with grain into feed, which is then given to piglets, he said, but added he was surprised the dehydration process did not kill the virus.
PEDv, among other diseases, will be discussed at the 178-member OIE's general session in Paris on May 25-30.
Vallat expected representatives from the United States and other PEDv-infected countries such as Canada, Japan, Mexico to bring information on the spread of the disease.
(Reporting by Sybille de La Hamaide; editing by Susan Thomas)