by SUSAN MANN
Ontario officials are watching to see if Porcine Epidemic Diarrhea, currently affecting pig populations in several American states, shows up in the province, says David Alves, deputy chief veterinarian.
“There’s a higher than usual chance it may come here,” he notes, adding the virus causing PED is easily transmitted through objects and people’s boots because infected pigs get very watery diarrhea that’s just loaded with the virus.
The Canadian Food Inspection Agency says in a May 28 update posted on its website the virus is also transmitted from one infected pig to another.
The disease isn’t a human health or food safety risk but it’s a production limiting disease causing vomiting and diarrhea in pigs, CFIA says. The agency is in contact with the United States Department of Agriculture and along with Canadian provinces, industry and others, is monitoring the situation in the United States.
In Ontario, Alves says swine veterinarians and producers are on alert and watching for the clinical signs of sows going off feed for no real reason, younger pigs having very watery diarrhea and high mortality, particularly among animals less than two weeks old. “They (vets and farmers) have been sent some information from the Ontario Pork Industry Council” and other organizations, he says.
Oxford County farmer John de Bruyn, who has a 700-sow farrow-to-finish operation, says he received the special update and “it’s pretty decent to let farmers know there’s something going on somewhere that may have an effect on them.”
After getting the notice, de Bruyn says he talked to his staff “to let them know there was something new out there and we reviewed what we were doing.”
Alves says the clinical signs of PED could be mistaken for transmissible gastroenteritis (TGE), which sometimes shows up in Ontario. Laboratory confirmation is needed to distinguish the two diseases. Since PED hasn’t been in Ontario, the provincial hog population doesn’t have any immunity to it.
PED “would spread through a hog building extremely fast,” he says. “That would be the real signal that it’s PED.”
Within a few days of coming in contact with the virus, 100 per cent of the pigs will be affected. Pigs less than two weeks old will get watery diarrhea and likely die. Animals more than two weeks old will also have watery diarrhea and will go off feed for a while. Some of them will survive the illness.
Farmers should work with their vets if they see these clinical signs and they should also submit diagnostic samples for analysis to the University of Guelph’s animal health laboratory. In Ontario, as part of the provincial Animal Health Act, vets must report to Ontario’s chief veterinarian any emerging widespread and possibly spreading disease even if they don’t have a good handle on what might be causing it, Alves says.
The CFIA says in its update PED isn’t a federally reportable or immediately notifiable disease. It also notes in the United States the disease’s source hasn’t been identified. PED was first found in England in 1971 and has been found in other European countries since then but never in Canada.
Alves says in the United States the most likely method of transmission is through trucks. Ontario farmers should ensure any trucks that have been in the United States have been cleaned and disinfected.
De Bruyn says trucks pose the greatest risk to Ontario’s hogs because there aren’t any live pigs that come into Canada from the United States. “I happen to do my own trucking so I know my trucks don’t end up in the United States.”
Many of the larger livestock trucking companies don’t just move hogs, they also transport cattle. Farmers using trucking companies should check to ensure the company is following proper procedures, he says.
Alves says farmers should also ensure their farm biosecurity measures are at as high a level as they can be. Any visitors or inanimate objects coming onto the farm need to be clean. In addition, don’t let visitors anywhere near the nursery barn.
CFIA says it has strict import controls to limit the risks of foreign disease outbreaks on Canadian livestock. BF