by SUSAN MANN
The Ontario pork industry is embarking on plans to eliminate porcine epidemic diarrhea virus from the province, participants in an Ontario Pork telephone town hall meeting were told Monday.
Ontario Pork resident veterinarian Mike DeGroot says there have been just six new cases of the virus this winter so far, compared to 20 cases last winter. The remaining 64 cases, from a total of 90 cases, occurred in 2014, the first year the virus was detected in Ontario.
The numbers show the industry has done a good job of being able to control the spread of the virus from farm-to-farm in Ontario, he notes. “Each year we get more improvement and less viral load in the environment.”
Of the total 90 cases in Ontario, about 80 per cent of farms are now considered to be PED-free again, DeGroot says.
PED is not a human health or food safety risk. The virus causes high death losses of almost 100 per cent in nursing piglets while older pigs get diarrhea but can recover.
Veterinarian Doug MacDougald, of South West Ontario Veterinary Services, says the consensus in the U.S. industry is the disease is now endemic “with many positive sites and many finisher breaks, especially at marketing.”
In response to a polling question asked during the telephone meeting, 98 per cent of participants said they support development of plans to eliminate PED from Ontario.
MacDougald says there are several reasons why the newly formed Swine Health Ontario “believes we need to build a plan to eliminate PED and delta coronavirus disease in this province.”
Ontario Pork chair Amy Cronin says the mission is to create excellence in swine health management. The organization is building on the swine industry’s recent success that minimized the impact of PED virus in Ontario.
The group has developed priorities for this year and is working on a strategic plan.
MacDougald, a member of the Swine Health Ontario leadership team, says a PED elimination strategy will be a model to “develop a functional swine disease response structure.” It will help uncover loopholes in the industry’s biosecurity protocols that “we haven’t identified yet and this will stand us in good stead for the next emerging disease as well as PRRS (Porcine Reproduction and Respiratory Syndrome) control, containment and elimination.”
The plan will put Ontario and Canada on the international map for having a successful swine health strategy, and Ontario’s provincial eastern and western trading partners, which have already eliminated the PED virus, will thank the province for following suit, he says.
DeGroot notes “there are no other active farm cases in Canada other than those that are still dealing with it in Ontario.”
MacDougald says Swine Health Ontario has asked the Ontario Swine Health Advisory Board (OSAHB) to develop the plan along with a funding proposal. The OSAHB’s science and tech committee, which met last week, supports the direction of eliminating the virus.
The draft plan will be ready soon for Swine Health Ontario and all key industry partners to review and provide input before it’s implemented. Responding to a question from Cronin, MacDougald says it will be voluntary for farmers and industry stakeholders to participate in the plan.
Pork industry officials also updated meeting participants about Seneca Valley virus, also known as Senecavirus. DeGroot says the Canadian Food Inspection Agency is establishing a working group to devise protocols for dealing with farms that are positive for the virus to ensure they can still send pigs for slaughter.
Seneca Valley virus, which isn’t a human health or food safety risk, causes mild clinical disease in pigs but also leads to vesicular lesions around the mouths and on the feet of pigs, similar to the reportable foot-and-mouth disease. The biggest concern about the virus is the feet and mouth blisters it causes are indistinguishable from blisters caused by foot-and-mouth disease, which “would have huge impacts on the industry.”
DeGoot says “for this reason any signs of vesicular disease must be reported for lab testing to rule out foot-and-mouth disease.”
Seneca Valley virus has been detected more frequently in the United States and other countries during the past year compared to the past. The virus also appeared in Canada about 10 years ago.
If farmers see the lesions on their pigs’ mouths and feet, it’s better to report that to their veterinarian rather than shipping the pigs and the lesions are first noticed at the slaughter plant. At the farm level, the CFIA would stop the movement of pigs until testing rules out foot-and-mouth disease. That would take three to four days, DeGroot says.
If a pig with lesions shows up at a slaughter plant, the CFIA has the ability to shut the plant down and stop any movement of pigs into the facility until “they determine foot-and-mouth disease is not the case,” he notes. “It becomes a lot more costly to the industry to have signs of vesicular lesions reported there (at slaughter plants).”
Slaughter plants currently won’t accept pigs with vesicular lesions because “they don’t want to take a potential foreign animal disease, such as foot-and-mouth disease, into the plant,” DeGroot says. The CFIA is developing a protocol for Seneca Valley virus-positive pigs, once the lesions have started to heal, to be accepted at the plants in Canada. BF