Deadly new hog disease has officials on high alert

pigs.jpgDeadly new hog disease

has officials on high alert

Keeping an emerging and devastating swine disease out of Manitoba will require a team effort, says the Manitoba Pork Council’s point man on the issue.

That means truckers, gathering yards, and farmers need to work together to keep Porcine Epidemic Diarrhea (PED) out of the province, said Miles Beaudin, the council’s manager of quality assurance and labour.

“We’re a team. If you want to be part of the team, you’ve got to do what’s right,” said Beaudin.

The disease is a virus spread by fecal matter, and when a swine herd is infected, 70 to 100 per cent of newborn piglets typically die. Although only officially confirmed to be in the U.S. on May 16, the disease has already hit seven U.S. states — Minnesota, Illinois, Iowa, Colorado, Oklahoma, Indiana, and Missouri.

The disease has not been reported north of the border, but the Canadian Pork Council and the Canadian Swine Health Board held an emergency conference call last week and issued a statement urging all industry players to be vigilant in adhering to on-farm biosecurity programs.

PED symptoms resemble transmissible gastroenteritis (TGE) because the two pathogens belong to the same family of viruses, said Dr. Glen Duizer, an animal health veterinarian with the Office of the Chief Provincial Veterinarian.

“It’s like a firestorm-style disease — it causes a lot of really sick piglets right away,” said Duizer. “If it were to enter a farrowing or breeding herd, it would be really quite obvious.”

Although PED is not yet a provincially reportable disease, TGE is and vets in Manitoba are required to submit samples in all suspected cases to government officials.

The Manitoba Pork Council also issued a warning, urging livestock transporters and assembly yards to pay close attention to “proper containment, cleaning and disinfection.” It is also recommended that trucks returning from the U.S. be cleaned and disinfected before entering any site containing swine.

There is currently no cure for PED, and while animals that survive an infection develop immunity, it’s not believed to be lifelong, said Duizer.

“In some of the Asian countries they have seen herds get infected again two or three years after they experienced it the first time,” said Duizer.

Piglets under four weeks of age are at greatest risk, with sows and feeder pigs suffering much milder symptoms and little, if any, mortality.

PED can be spread by contaminated footwear, and anyone returning from an infected area should ensure they follow effective biosecurity protocols. That also applies to Canadians participating in World Pork Expo this week in Des Moines, Iowa, said the Canadian Swine Health Board.

Beaudin urged truckers who handle swine to strictly follow existing protocols for effective cleaning and disinfection of trucks available at

“I can’t enforce or make things absolute, but truckers and gathering yards need to talk to farmers and tell them what the risks are in using their transportation or going to the gathering yard,” said Beaudin.

“Not disclosing the risk is not appropriate or professional. People need to talk and take appropriate steps to manage the risk.”

“It’s like a firestorm-style disease. It causes a lot of really sick piglets right away. If it were to enter a farrowing or breeding herd, it would be really quite obvious.”

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