Traces of PED a ‘serious heads up’ for Sask. hog farmers

Two positive samples of the virus were found last week in the province on a livestock trailer and a truck wash

The truth is out there: evidence of porcine epidemic diarrhea virus continues to appear.

Two positive samples found last week in Saskatchewan serve as a reminder that hog producers should be vigilant about biosecurity.

No Saskatchewan pigs had contracted the virus as of July 30.

The samples were found in a truck wash and on a livestock trailer that is thought to have hauled cull sows to the United States and then returned to Canada.

PED is considered endemic in the U.S., where many Canadian hogs are shipped, but hog operations in Saskatchewan, Alberta and British Columbia have so far remained free of it.

Neil Ketilson, general manager of the Saskatchewan Pork Development Board, said the positive viral samples were found through ongoing surveillance and tests conducted in co-operation with the provincial government and producers.

“It’s a serious heads up,” said Ketilson.

Dr. Betty Althouse, Saskatchewan’s chief veterinarian, echoed Ketilson’s view of the samples.

“This is a good reminder that we need to remain vigilant,” she said. “The industry is aware and transporters are doing a really good job of having biosecurity in place.”

Traces of PED virus have been found before in Saskatchewan. Dr. Wendy Wilkins, disease surveillance veterinarian for the province, said one positive sample was found in 2016, another one in 2017, and now these two in 2018.

Thousands of samples are taken each year through an ongoing surveillance program.

“It’s a reminder that these bugs, they travel,” said Wilkins.

Livestock trucks and trailers are thought to be the most likely way PED can hitch a ride into and around Canada.

Ketilson said about 1.5 million Saskatchewan pigs are trucked to plants in Alberta or Manitoba every year.

“A lot of the companies now, some of the largest companies like Olymel, for example, have dedicated truck washes that only do their own trucks,” said Ketilson. “They’ve spent a considerable amount of money on putting in the washes and making sure they’re done right.

“Steve’s Livestock, for example, they’ve got brand new truck washes and bake facilities … to wash and look after these trucks properly, but they’re extremely expensive and they certainly add cost. But you know what? They seem to be doing the job for us too, so hats off to them.”

Manitoba has confirmed 10 outbreaks of PED in hog premises this year, the most recent verified June 1. It is also working to eradicate the virus in 99 premises affected within the last three years and as of July 3, 82 of them were presumed negative for the illness, according to Manitoba provincial government data.

Positive PED samples found in Saskatchewan are a message that any complacency about biosecurity at hog operations is dangerous.

“It’s one thing for people to do it for a week when they’re on high alert but to continuously do it, and make sure that it’s done, requires a whole new level of perseverance,” Ketilson said.

PED is not a risk to people. It is usually fatal to young piglets but older animals generally survive an infection.

The virus has been found in Ontario, Quebec, Prince Edward Island and Manitoba since it first was confirmed in Canada in 2014.

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