‘Weak positive’ PED case found in Alberta site

The virus that causes porcine epidemic diarrhea has shown up once again in Alberta, but no hog barns are affected and no pigs have taken ill.

A “weak positive” test for PED was confirmed Jan. 22 through the province’s swine disease surveillance program, which involves tests at high-traffic sites such as assembly yards and truck washes.

It proves the virus is around and the test result should serve as a warning to those in the hog industry to remain vigilant with biosecurity, said Alberta Pork quality assurance and production manager Javier Bahamon.

The site where the virus was most recently found is not publicly revealed, said Bahamon, but producers who have been in contact with it have been informed of the test result.

The recent weak positive means a certain threshold was reached through a PCR (polymerase chain reaction) test for the virus. A strong positive, in contrast, would mean pigs were found to be actively shedding the virus, and that is not the case.

“We know that the virus is there, so now the people that visited those sites, we are contacting them and making sure they do a follow-up with their pigs and their trailers and so on,” Bahamon said.

“So far we haven’t had any clinical signs on the farms.”

He speculated that the mid-January cold snap made it more difficult to properly disinfect trucks, washes, yards and other sites, allowing the virus to sneak in.

“Regardless of where we find that environmental (sample), it’s telling us that the virus is moving around, that it’s there, that you need to be vigilant in what you do, and biosecurity is every day and every time that you go and visit any of these high traffic areas.”

The chief veterinarian’s office in Alberta issued a statement Jan. 27 about the recent finding, noting it “promptly implemented the Alberta response plan to investigate potential sources of the weak positive result.

“At this time, the investigation is continuing and actions have been taken at the sampling site to mitigate any further risks of potential exposure.”

It echoed Bahamon’s view that the test result is a reminder that PED and other illnesses are a constant threat.

Alberta Pork personnel will visit hog operations upon request and review biosecurity protocols to see if any improvements can be made. It also posts information online at bit.ly/37NMlUp.

Alberta had four hog operations break with PED last year. Three of them have since tested negative for the virus and the fourth is nearing that stage, Bahamon said.

Manitoba confirmed 82 cases in 2019 and a total of 189 since 2014. As of Jan. 21, 148 of those premises are negative for PED.

Ontario has had 128 cases, the most recent one confirmed Jan. 2, according to Ontario Pork.

PED virus is almost always fatal to young piglets, which die of dehydration and malnutrition. Older animals can recover, though production is affected. The virus poses no risk to human health or food safety.

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