Coronavirus found in Alta. hog facility

Similar to PED | Producers urged to keep their guards up when it comes to biosecurity

A positive test for swine delta coronavirus at an Alberta hog handling facility is “a shot across the bow” for pork producers, says Alberta Pork president Frank Novak.

The often-deadly hog virus was confirmed last week at an unnamed high-traffic pig site, but as of Oct. 20 there were no sick pigs or evidence of herd infection in Alberta.

SDCV is in the same family as the deadly porcine epidemic diarrhea (PED) virus that has infected 69 hog facilities in Canada and killed millions of piglets in the United States since May 2013.

“The problem is people either get tired or they get complacent or both, and the reality is, that bug’s going to be around for multiple years, probably, and we just absolutely cannot afford to drop our guard,” said Novak.

The positive environmental test, one of thousands conducted by Alberta Agriculture and Alberta Pork each month, is the first time evidence of SDCV has been found in Alberta. No positives for PED have been found in the province.

However, recent cases of PED infection in Manitoba have Saskatchewan and Alberta producers on guard because hog transport trucks regularly travel between them. PED and SDCV can spread in feces and on other surfaces.

“We’ve had reports of people being a little bit lax on certain things with trucks coming from Manitoba and things like that,” Novak said.

“We just cannot let that stuff slide.”

Alberta officials are working to identify where the virus originated and manage the situation, said Geoff Geddes of Alberta Pork.

Alberta Agriculture is also contacting anyone who may have been at the infected site in an effort to control spread.

SDCV induces symptoms similar to PED in pigs, including diarrhea and vomiting that can be fatal, particularly in young pigs.

“It appears that the mortality rates at least are lower in SDCV than PED but still obviously a very serious concern,” Geddes said.

“We’ve kind of tried to take the attitude from the beginning, from when it was first detected in Ontario, that (infection) was a matter of when, not if. But still, we’ve gone for so long without, you hope that it will stay that way.”

Producers are being urged to maintain strict biosecurity.

A news release about the positive test carries a specific warning: “If any truck tries to enter your farm that has not been cleaned, don’t let it on. It poses a serious risk for bringing PED or SDCV onto your farm and into your barn.”

SDCV was first found in pigs in Hong Kong in 2012. It was found in the United States in February and in Ontario in March. There is no effective treatment.

“At least it can be kind of a further sort of warning to people to really make sure that all the biosecurity is tightened up if it’s not already,” Geddes said.

“Hopefully we can still head it off.”

Neither SDCV nor PED poses any risk to human health. It is generally fatal to young piglets and adversely affects the health of older animals.

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