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PED reaches Alberta — first case of deadly virus confirmed in province

Hog producers warned by pork officials it’s ‘especially critical’ to step up their biosecurity efforts

After years of successfully keeping the deadly PED virus at bay, porcine epidemic diarrhea has been found in Alberta.

“The disease was found on Thursday (Jan. 3),” said Javier Bahamon, quality assurance and production manager for Alberta Pork.

“It was reported by a private veterinarian to chief provincial offices at Alberta Agriculture and Forestry. Since then we have been doing the containment plan.”

The virus was found on a 400-head farrow-to finish operation and while the location is not being disclosed, producers in the area have been notified, Bahamon said.

“Alberta Pork will continue to work closely with the affected producer right now, and continue to communicate with the industry,” he said. “The barn is contained, and animals are contained. And Alberta Pork and Alberta Agriculture are looking for ways to process the animals and market whatever they can market from the farm.”

Alberta Pork is also warning all producers in the province to be on heightened alert.

“They need to watch who is coming in and out of the farm,” he said. “They really need to take care of the transportation, and do a proper wash and disinfection every time they deliver pigs or some pigs are going to be delivered to their farm. We would encourage them to work closely with their vet to assess the different risks and the different practices they do.”

That includes keeping close watch on their pigs and new ingredients coming onto their farm.

“Producers are encouraged to submit all swine manifests, including farm-to-farm movements, in a timely manner,” Alberta Pork said in a statement.

PED has killed millions of pigs in the United States, but has had a much smaller — but still very costly — impact north of the border. The first Canadian case was found in Ontario in 2014, but there have also been cases in Quebec, P.E.I., and Manitoba.

The latter province has been particularly hard hit, with more than 100 Manitoba hog operations being infected by the virus, which can be extremely difficult to eradicate.

“The virus is spread by the fecal-oral route, with the most common source being infected feces coming onto a farm with various surfaces that can transmit the virus,” Alberta Pork said in its news release. “In nursing pigs, PED can cause up to 100 per cent mortality.”

PED is not transmitted to humans or other animals, and it is not a food safety risk.

Tough virus to kill

As of September, 88 of the 104 premises in Manitoba previously confirmed to have PED, are now classed as “presumptive negative,” according to the province’s provincial Agriculture Department. Achieving that status takes four to six months and is still no guarantee the virus won’t show up again.

“A PED Presumptive Negative premises is a premises where the affected producer has implemented strict measures to eliminate PED from all pigs and pig contact areas, and have confirmed the virus has been eliminated through repeated animal and environmental testing,” states the department’s website.

“However, a potential PED risk still remains within the manure storage system.”

But for Alberta pork farmers, the risk is that the virus will now be brought to their operation.

“Anyplace off farm, such as an abattoir, should be considered as a potential source for bringing disease to your herd,” Alberta Pork said. “Producers are reminded to review their farms’ biosecurity policies regularly and consult Alberta Pork or your herd veterinarian as required.”

Alberta Pork’s toll-free number is 1-877-247-PORK (7675).

The virus is generally fatal in very young animals, however, older animals can recover.

Symptoms can include loose feces and being off feed in sows; watery diarrhea and dehydration in piglets. In weanlings and feeders, almost all animals become sick and vomiting is common.

Manitoba has implemented a voluntary PED testing program at 20 high-traffic sites that move or handle large numbers of pigs, including livestock assembly yards, federal and provincial abattoirs, truck wash stations, and livestock trailers. More than 27,000 samples have been submitted for PED testing, with nine sites having tested positive for the virus.

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