Wildlife Damage Management, Internet Center for


Date of this Version

November 1979


Transmissible gastroenteritis (TGE) is one of the five major diseases of concern to pork producers. The virus that causes the disease has an affinity for absorptive epithelial cells of the villi of the small intestine, primarily the jejunum. Infected cells are sloughed off, and the loss of absorptive activity results in salt imbalance, hyperkalemia, and dehydration in the pig. Death occurs in 60 to 100% of the diseased infant pigs. Two forms of TGE exist in the United States: an enzootic form that has only recently been recognized as a serious problem, and an epidemic form that was first identified about 35 years ago. Epidemic TGE is characterized as being a seasonal disease, with outbreaks occurring primarily in winter months and especially after a snowfall. The same weather conditions are conducive to foraging by starlings in hog lots and consequently farmers, many veterinarians, and some researchers (Pilchard 1965) have concluded that the birds serve as vectors of the TGE virus (Bohl 1975). This research project was initiated to determine whether starlings do have a role in transmission of the pathogen.