by SUSAN MANN
There could be more cases of porcine epidemic diarrhea virus turning up in Ontario than just the one found on a Middlesex County farrow-to-finish operation Wednesday, says Ontario’s chief veterinarian Greg Douglas.
But the virus isn’t going to spread from this farm “because there aren’t any movements coming off this farm,” he says. There is a question as to what extent the virus exists now in the Ontario and Canadian environment. The pressure from the virus in swine agriculture is intensifying and “we might get other cases just because of that,’ he notes.
The province is continuing to work with the farmer in this case and “explore our options in terms of how we might decrease the viral load,” he says. The province’s efforts are centred on containing the virus.
The farmer in this situation is disappointed but calm. “You can well imagine how you’d feel when you’re the first case in Canada, ” Douglas says.
The Ontario agriculture ministry isn’t identifying the farmer for privacy reasons but Douglas says “this is a closed herd,” and that means pigs aren’t coming on the farm. “The sows that he has inside the barn stay there. He doesn’t have breeding stock coming onto the farm.”
However, last week some pigs did leave the farm, he adds.
Currently, the Middlesex County hog farmer is voluntarily not shipping hogs to market but the farm isn’t under quarantine. “He doesn’t have any marketing scheduled for the next couple of weeks so that works in our favour,” Douglas says. “He has no need to move pigs in the next couple of weeks. Our solution, in terms of what we do based on some of the ongoing work we’re doing, has to be done in the next little while.”
Ontario Pork communications and consumer marketing manager Mary Jane Quinn says the ministry hasn’t given the farmer’s name to the organization. “We have just said to the ministry to let the producer know that Ontario Pork’s thoughts are with this producer. If the producer wants to reach out to Ontario Pork, we are here to help support with resources and things like that.”
The investigation into pig and people movement at the farm continues, she says.
Canada’s chief veterinarian Harpreet Kochhar says it’s the Ontario agriculture ministry that’s taking the lead in managing the investigation and the response to the PED detection. The Canadian Food Inspection Agency supports and will continue supporting the agriculture ministry’s response to the situation.
“Any time they (the Ontario agriculture ministry) want to get detections confirmed, our laboratory will be available to do that,” he says. “That’s been our main role into this one.”
As for pork farmers in general, Quinn says there’s a bit of fear and speculation in the community about what this (the confirmed PED case) means for the industry.
Susan Murray, Ontario agriculture ministry spokesperson, says the Canadian Food Inspection Agency’s Winnipeg laboratory has confirmed the Ontario lab’s finding that the sample taken from the Middlesex County hog farm is PED. “They were using the same test so there wasn’t really much doubt” that the sample was confirmed to be PED.
PED is transmitted from one pig to another and through inanimate objects, such as boots. The virus doesn’t pose a human health or food safety risk but it is a production limiting disease causing vomiting and diarrhea in pigs. It doesn’t pose a risk to other animals besides pigs.
In the United States, more than one million pigs have already died since the virus was first reported there last spring. The virus is now in 23 states.
Martin Rice, Canadian Pork Council executive director, says they’re not aware of any implications for Canadian pork exports. “The U.S. has not lost any markets that we’re aware of for pork.” But Mexico has put restrictions on U.S. pig genetics, such as semen and embryos, into its country.
PED has been found for a long time in Europe and Asia. “It’s not something that was first discovered in North America,” he says.
Since PED isn’t a World Organization for Animal Health-listed disease like foot and mouth disease, it’s really up to countries to deal with it on their own and there’s no basis for countries to implement international trade restrictions for animal health protection, Rice says.
Although the initial finding of the disease was in Ontario, the situation is becoming more national, Rice says. In Quebec, Richard Vigneault, spokesman for meat packing and food processing company Olymel, says some PED virus was found on an unloading dock Tuesday at the company’s facility northeast of Montreal. But the virus wasn’t found on an animal at Olymel.
“We gave that information to the authorities on Tuesday night,” he says. The company has increased the frequency of its testing, along with enhancing its biosecurity measures and its cleaning and disinfecting procedures. In addition, the company is working with Quebec’s swine health team, ministry of agriculture and other officials.
Olymel representatives are also monitoring the confirmed presence of PED on the Ontario farm in Middlesex County.
Asked if the two cases are linked, Vigneault says he couldn’t say. There’s currently an ongoing investigation “to identify the source of the virus” at the Olymel plant.
Olymel is still receiving hogs and conducting its business but under enhanced biosecurity control and monitoring, he says.
Now that PED has been confirmed in Ontario, Mike DeGroot, Ontario Pork national biosecurity coordinator, says farmers should review their biosecurity protocols with their herd veterinarian and look into any changes they can make. Farmers should particularly review biosecurity protocols “around pig transport because that’s one way that we know that the virus is easily moved around.”
Farmers can do visual inspections of trucks coming on to their farm to ensure the trucks have been washed and disinfected. “A lot of it is working with the transporter and having confidence in the transporter you work with that they’re following protocols correctly,” he says, adding farmers should talk to their transporter to ensure the company is washing and disinfecting trucks.
DeGroot says of the trucks returning from delivering hogs in the United States “we’ve got it set up now that most of them should be getting washed properly.” The trucks are either washed in the United States or once they return to Canada.
There isn’t readily available biosecure truck washing facilities in the United States. “A lot of them are privately owned and it’s difficult for our transporters to get in there. Some of the washing is done here in Ontario,” he says.
Farmers should also continue focusing on the foot traffic and people going in and out of barns. For dead stock, farmers should ensure they’re not picking up bugs through third-party pick up and removal of dead animals. Trucks collecting dead animals aren’t typically cleaned, he says. “But a good strategy is to have the pick up done off farm so those trucks aren’t coming right” close to the barn site.
Talking to feed service and other service providers is also a good idea to ensure they’re aware of the farm’s biosecurity protocols and they follow them when they arrive, DeGroote says.
Materials for the biosecurity standard are on the Canadian Swine Health Board website at: www.swinehealth.ca.
If PED starts to spread in Ontario, farmers need to confirm pigs they source from other farms are negative for the virus when bringing new pigs on their farm, he explains.
Quinn says another tip is farmers shouldn’t wear their barn boots to meetings, as now is the time when all of the association meetings are being held. BF