A swine virus that appeared in the U.S. in 2013 has proven hard to track. But an algorithm might help researchers predict the next outbreak.

In 2013, a deadly swine virus popped up on a handful of U.S. pig farms and quickly spread to 30 states. Over the next year, it wiped out around 10 percent of the U.S. pig population, and pork prices jumped.

This was the first appearance of porcine epidemic diarrhea virus (PEDV) in the United States. And although this particular outbreak was mostly contained in 2014, the virus remains a lingering threat to pig farms: An outbreak can cost a farm about $300,000 once dead pigs have been replaced and barns disinfected.

The virus, which does not affect humans, is spread through pig feces. Scientists still don’t understand exactly what triggers, or perpetuates, an outbreak. But that may be changing.

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