Another close call for Alberta’s hog sector

The deadly virus was recently found in a transport trailer that was supposed to have been disinfected before crossing the border

Alberta hog producers are being warned to stay vigilant following the recent discovery of the porcine epidemic diarrhea virus in a livestock trailer.

The “weak” positive sample was found in a trailer during routine monitoring several weeks ago.

“What it means for us is that we are still being exposed to the PED virus through animal transport,” said Dr. Egan Brockhoff, a swine veterinarian with Prairie Swine Health Services in Red Deer.

“Just like we’ve said all along, we think animal transport and contaminated transport are our greatest risk in the province of Alberta. This just underscores that.”

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Porcine epidemic diarrhea is a viral disease that causes vomiting, diarrhea, and high death loss in pigs. While reasonably controlled in Canada, it is endemic in the United States, and half of the entire American sow herd is infected. The disease has been in Canada for three years and while Alberta found a positive sample for the disease at a pig-handling facility in 2014, has never reported an infected herd.

The recent positive sample was discovered in a trailer that hauled sows from Manitoba to the U.S. The trailer was washed and disinfected in the States; loaded with commercial equipment; and hauled back to Manitoba before entering Alberta, where the positive sample was found during a routine weekly monitoring check.

“We notified the industry; we washed and disinfected the trailer again; and resampled it and it has since tested negative,” said Brockhoff, who developed the swine industry’s weekly PEDv monitoring network.

The sows hauled from Manitoba to the United States were all from negative herds, but the contamination could have occurred at any one of several spots along the way, including the Manitoba assembly yard (which had previously been exposed to PEDv) and the processing plant that accepted the sows.

However, the incident will further heighten fears the culprit was the American truck wash.

Many U.S. truck washes use recycled water, which can harbour the virus. During the height of the U.S. epidemic, pig transport trailers coming from the U.S. had to be washed and disinfected at Canadian truck washes. But over the strenuous objections of the Canadian pork industry, the Canadian Food Inspection Agency has since lifted that requirement. Last month, Federal Agriculture Minister Lawrence MacAulay refused requests to overrule the CFIA, leading the head of the Manitoba Pork Council to describe the situation as a “time bomb.”

It’s a reminder to Alberta producers that maintaining proper biosecurity is critical, said Brockhoff.

“This instance underscores that the pork industry is a North American pork industry, and we’ve got animal movement north and south and east and west,” he said. “There’s no such thing as zero risk — as long as PEDv exists somewhere in the pork industry in North America, we are always at risk of bringing this virus into Canada and into Alberta.”

To reduce the possibility of the disease, swine producers need to properly wash, disinfect and dry their trailers with a thermal assist, before the trailers visit or return to their farms. Swine producers need to follow proper biosecurity protocols when entering or exiting their farms and pig barns. Any transport entering a swine farm should obey correct biosecurity protocols, which include the use of boot covers and proper disposal of potential contaminants.

“We can’t think we’ve got this beat,” said Brockhoff. “Manitoba had new cases this spring. This trailer found positive in Alberta is just a reminder to us that the virus is out there and we have to be very conscious with our biosecurity at all times.”

The virus has been found in Manitoba, Ontario, Quebec, and P.E.I.

“With the exception of Ontario, every other region has been able to control it, and Ontario is doing a great job and continues to work towards complete eradication,” said Brockhoff.

Although the virus is widespread in the U.S., the American industry has done a lot to control the spread of the virus.

“The spread is still continuing to occur, but it’s one step forward, one step back, instead of the virus spreading like wildfire,” said Brockhoff. “They’re holding their own now.”

About the author

Reporter

Alexis Kienlen lives in Edmonton and has been writing for Alberta Farmer since 2008. Originally from Saskatoon, she has also published two collections of poetry and a biography about a Sikh civil rights activist. Her freelance work has appeared in numerous publications across Canada.

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