BANFF, Alta. — Several hog operations in Ontario have decided to live with porcine infectious diarrhea (PED) infection in their barns rather than eliminate it.
That potentially puts other hog operations at risk of infection or re-infection after concerted efforts to eliminate the disease elsewhere in Canada.
Dr. Doug MacDougald of South West Ontario Veterinary Services told those at the Jan. 12-14 Banff Pork Seminar that three or four Ontario producers have chosen to live with PED but more than 80 other operations in the province that were infected have either eliminated the virus or are in the process of doing so.
“There’s a small amount of pig sites that are a source of PED for future cross contamination and other herds to be infected,” MacDougald said.
He and other Ontario veterinarians said the situation is distressing and frustrating because Canada has the opportunity to eliminate PED and potentially keep it out so it doesn’t wreak the havoc experienced in the United States. There, it has killed millions of piglets and is now considered endemic.
However, there is no mandate to eliminate PED in Canada, said MacDougald. That means the three or four Ontario producers who have accepted PED have the right to do so.
“We don’t have a regional or national mandate to eliminate PED. You’re not hearing that from CPC (Canadian Pork Council). You’re not hearing it from our national government. You’re hearing it from some of the regional organizations. Quebec clearly stated it. Western Canada, the same. Ontario, no.”
CPC chair Rick Bergmann said he was not aware of the situation involving Ontario producers’ decision to live with PED but planned to investigate further.
PED is a notifiable disease in Ontario. New cases must be reported to the Ontario agriculture ministry but there is no regulatory oversight on the need to eliminate it.
“New cases are notifiable to OMAFRA but there isn’t a requirement from that, then, to eliminate PED,” said MacDougald.
One of the farms living with PED is an organic operation in southern Ontario and a second one is a neighbouring farm.
Exact locations were not available at press time.
By vaccinating sows for PED, these farms avoid high piglet mortality. When the pigs catch the virus at an older age, it slows weight gain and extends the time on feed, but veterinary sources said those producers are prepared to live with the extra costs.
The virus is not on the Canadian Food Inspection Agency’s list of reportable diseases and MacDougald said the federal agency’s only involvement in Canada’s PED cases, which first occurred in January 2014, involved an investigation into feed as the likely source of initial entry.
“Feed is under their control, so CFIA became involved at that point with the testing of that feed in the Winnipeg lab,” MacDougald said.
The Ontario Swine Health Advisory Board’s position is that PED virus and a related virus, swine delta coronavirus, “can and should be eradicated from Ontario and the rest of Canada.”
Quebec, which has had 16 premises infected with PED, has eliminated the virus. Its Equipe Quebecoise de sante porcine (EQSP) program was key to managing it, said MacDougald.
Manitoba had five infected operations. One eliminated its pigs and has not yet restocked, one burned down and a third is now negative. The other two are in the process of eliminating PED.
No cases of PED have been found in Saskatchewan, Alberta or British Columbia.
The virus is carried in feces and can travel on other surfaces. It is more easily spread in winter because it favours cool, moist conditions and it is more difficult to clean surfaces in cold temperatures.