By Amanda Brodhagen, Farms.com
Canada has its first case of the pig-killing virus known as Porcine Epidemic Diarrhea, or PEDv. The virus was discovered on a hog farm in southwestern, Ontario.
Ontario Pork, which represents close to 1,600 hog farmers in the province, tweeted out the news Thursday afternoon, Jan. 23., saying that the first case of PEDv has been confirmed in Ontario, and that it was working with the Ontario Ministry of Agriculture and Food (OMAF) on next steps.
The highly contagious virus, which only affects pigs, was first detected in the U.S. Midwest last May. Since then, PEDv has killed more than 1 million pigs in the U.S. and has spread to 22 states, and now at least one province. The virus is not new and has been in Europe since the 1970s. It is also prevalent in parts of Asia. Scientists say the PEDv strain found in the U.S. is very similar to the Chinese strain of the virus.
While PEDv spreads rapidly among pigs, it poses no risk to humans or other animals. It is also not a food safety concern, and pork products remain safe to eat. The virus however, is a major concern for hog farmers, as the disease spreads rapidly among all ages of swine and is especially deadly for younger pigs. Currently, there is no treatment for PEDv and there are no effective vaccines available.
Dr. Greg Douglas, chief veterinary officer for Ontario, said at a news conference on Thursday, that lab tests conducted at the University of Guelph detected the virus. The samples were then sent to the National Centre for Foreign Animal Diseases lab in Winnipeg for further testing. Farms.com has learned that the test confirmed positive for PEDv on Friday.
The farm in question is located in Middlesex County, which is considered to be one of the top five pork producing counties in the province. Dr. Douglas said the farm showed clinical signs of PEDv Jan. 22. The farm had been following strict biosecurity protocols, but as Douglas explained PEDv is “extremely difficult to contain,” even with very strict biosecurity measures in place. The producer is said to be cooperating fully. At this time, the source of the virus is unknown and the investigation in ongoing. Douglas says he has confidence that the situation is “under control.”
Having learned from the U.S., the virus becomes even more difficult to detect in the winter months, because it can remain dormant for weeks. “That’s why we are seeing in the U.S. record amounts of detection of PEDv on a weekly bias,” Dr. Douglas explains. According to Douglas, the virus can live longer during the winter months compared to the summer time. “We know the threat is intensifying from the Americans,” he said.
Meanwhile, Ontario’s premier is assuring the public that pork products are safe to eat, despite the PEDv outbreak. Premier Kathleen Wynne, who also doubles as the province’s agriculture minister, said Friday that PEDv is “strictly an animal health issue,” noting that there is no risk to humans from the virus.
Wynne says that OMAF is working closely with the province’s pork producers, the individual farmer whose swine herd has been affected, and the Canadian Food Inspection Agency to ensure that all biosecurity precautions are in place to control the spread of the virus. “What I’m concerned about is that it not spread,” she said.
Ontario Pork reminds farmers that biosecurity is the best tool to protect their swine herds, and are asked to maintain biosecurity protocols. If animals show any signs of illness, farmers are to contact their veterinarian immediately. Ontario’s Animal Health Act requires veterinarians to report any “significant” herd health changes to the ministry of agriculture.