Same day diagnosis | Swift lab analysis in Canada’s first case put control efforts into action
BANFF — Veterinarian Doug MacDougald had been optimistic about Canadian producers’ ability to manage porcine epidemic diarrhea before its discovery on a southwestern Ontario hog farm was announced last week.
And while he remained positive late last week as news spread of the country’s first case of PED, he warned that the Canadian industry is already late in responding to a virus that is wreaking havoc on the American industry.
In that country, the virus has affected millions of pigs and cost the industry hundreds of millions of dollars since it first appeared in May 2013.
Cases of the virus, which thrives in cold weather, began to escalate in mid-fall in the United States. Its reach is expected to spread over the winter.
MacDougald said the Canadian industry requires an aggressive national surveillance effort, and fast.
“If we allow it to escape in Canada with the information and the unique opportunity we’ve had to not have it until we can learn some stuff, if we let it escape, shame on us,” said MacDougald of South West Ontario Veterinary Services.
Some estimates say as much as 30 to 40 percent of the U.S. sow herd has been infected.
“We learned too late on this issue,” Dallas Hockman of the United States’ National Pork Producers Council told the Banff Pork Seminar last week.
“We’re playing catch up.”
A working group was established in Ontario in November with the assistance of Ontario Pork and the Ontario Swine Health Advisory Board.
The effort allowed officials to be ready when a suspicious case materialized.
“Who’s going to take the lead? It was the end of September, into October, and the answer was nobody and that’s an unacceptable answer,” said Martin Misener, also of South West Ontario Veterinary Services.
“So we just sort of took off and started.”
Confirmation of the first case of PED in Canada happened quickly. The producer first observed scouring in piglets Jan. 21. They were treated but looked worse the next day, which is when the case became suspicious.
Officials were able to take a sample, which was returned the same day, leading to the diagnosis that night and public confirmation Jan. 23.
MacDougald said at least four other “suspicious” cases had previously been investigated in the province, with negative results. Those cases also saw lab results returned swiftly.
Other jurisdictions need to be able to replicate that response and quick turnaround, he added.
Chris Byra of the Canadian Swine Health Intelligence Network, which operates a network in which veterinarians voluntarily submit data about diagnoses and farm visits, told the seminar early detection isn’t easy.
“We were under the impression it was going to be pretty easy to do. Piglets start dying, we get massive diarrhea and that’s what we’re monitoring right now,” he said.
“But in fact, in these grow finisher barns its less obvious.”
MacDougald encouraged producers to contact a veterinarian if there are changes in pigs’ diarrhea. Detection of PED is not easy or obvious with laboratory testing.
“It does not have to be highly explosive watery diarrhea. This is a concern for Canada in early detection.”
PED-related efforts and response plans have been developed in other provinces, including Alberta, where the virus has been listed as reportable and some supports made available to producers.
MacDougald said other jurisdictions must follow the lead of the Ontario Pork Board.
Funds have to be made available to allow qualified professionals to plug gaps in insecurity.
“We absolutely need to do this right now in the other regions of Canada, and continue to drill down in every region, including Ontario,” he said.
Trucks crossing the Canadian border have been identified as a major risk of being cross-contaminated with the virus.
Evidence collected in Ontario shows that a minority of trucks arriving in Canada are carrying some amount of PED.
Officials also want to ensure that pig trailers returning from the U.S. are washed and disinfected to the OSHAB’s standards, which includes a separate protocol for cold weather disinfection.
MacDougald said producers should assess their own biosecurity as well as that of service providers and transport companies with which they work.
However, thousands of hog and cattle trucks cross the border every year. Logistical challenges include wash bay capacity and the use of recycled water.
Misener said Ontario has only 33 percent of the wash capacity required for a major disease control initiative.
Corn and dried distillers grain are another potential source of contamination. Misener said some producers in the U.S. are using pellets as a precaution. Birds are another source, he added.
“Hammer the things you can control,” he said. “This virus is going to get tracked into your barn from a way that wasn’t thought of.”
Misener said there is no hope of containing or eliminating the virus in the U.S., where producers will have to adapt to its presence.
Some vaccines are marketed for PED, and others will come, but he said they are unlikely to be effective.