PEDv has not reached the heights this year that gripped the pork industry during Manitoba’s historic outbreak in 2017, but the sector is still on high alert.
Nine new cases have been reported in 2018 as of June 18, while 78 of Manitoba’s total 91 PED-positive cases were dubbed presumptive negative as of mid-May.
This time last year, Manitoba was fighting 21 ongoing cases, a number that ramped up to 80 by year’s end.
The echoes of last year’s outbreak loom large in procedure and program changes in the pork sector.
Dr. Megan Bergman, Manitoba’s chief veterinary officer, has noted significant shifts in animal transportation, risk management and on-farm biosecurity.
“We’ve asked producers to really focus on limiting those contacts coming to their farms as much as possible and also kind of ramping up their biosecurity to being more than what your standard day-to-day biosecurity practices would be,” she said. “Making sure that they have vehicles parked at the driveway, that they have a staged entry process, so that when folks are walking into the barn, they’re wearing booties and they have different stages to go through to make sure that they’re not picking up that virus and bringing it into the barn when they go in.”
Other changes include barriers and signs to control access to the yard and limiting traffic. Bergman also noted efforts to educate service providers on biosecurity across Manitoba Agriculture departments. Service providers were one of several possible infection vectors identified last year.
Transportation has also seen a ramp-up. Bergman pointed to higher temperatures and longer baking time during trailer decontamination, as well as dedicated trailers for PEDv-positive farms and a marked decline in the frequency of animal movements.
“The other thing that I think has been implemented as well is dedicated biosecure routing,” Bergman said. “We want to ensure that if we are moving hogs from positive farms, that we’re not moving that virus around when we’re moving them. So, as much as possible, we use routes that are biosecure so that we’re not moving the virus past farms that are negative.”
Jenelle Hamblin, Manitoba Pork Council manager of swine health programs, says last year’s outbreak has translated to greater farmer awareness and a swell of resources from her organization.
Her own position is at least partly tied to last year’s outbreak. The pork council announced the position last summer as an effort to revamp disease management policy as well as get staff in place for the newly minted Manitoba Coordinated Disease Response program.
The farmer-based program was aimed at connecting producers with veterinarians, up-to-date information on disease status and other resources.
The project’s first year focused on the existing PEDv risk area in southeastern Manitoba. At the time, the council hoped to use the initiative as a tool to stem the outbreak, although plans were already in place to extend the program through central and western Manitoba.
That process has since begun, Hamblin said.
“With the confidential information sharing agreement, anybody who signs on to the platform, whether they be in the southeast or the northwest or the southwest, they have access to all the same platform,” she said. “So, information on disease location, disease status. We have area maps including the overall infection area as well as more specific manure spread notifications — where manure was being spread this spring, specifically in the southeast, because we’re targeting, obviously, PED-positive spread manure, being that there could be associated risk with that.”
The Pork Council says about half of all pork producers in Manitoba and 76 per cent of those in eastern Manitoba have signed on to the initiative.
The council has tentative plans to extend the program to PRRS (porcine respiratory and reproductive syndrome), although focus has so far been isolated to PEDv, in consideration to last year’s outbreak.
“It’s done a great job of getting the information out there,” Hamblin said. “I think that producers now have a place to go to have all of the information in one place. We’re definitely encouraging producers to log in and check the information regularly. We are sending updates via email to all of the users when any updates are being made to the platform. I think that the original goal of what we wanted to do when we developed the program is where we’re at.”
The Manitoba Pork Council is looking for producer feedback to further develop the program.
The council has released print and online resources in an effort to prevent another historic outbreak.
Among those, the Manitoba Pork Council is pushing a new guide on biosecurity during hog delivery.
The guide urges open communication between farms and destination sites, biosecure transport routes, proper decontamination and, “two-boot cover biosecurity,” where drivers layer boot covers so that they can be stripped one at a time before entering the trailer or cab, thus keeping feet clean.
Manitoba’s chief veterinary office noted biosecurity gaps during a series of assessments at high-traffic sites last year. Those included drivers failing to change footwear when entering the trailer or at scrape-out, the amount of physical contact between drivers and facility offices, and gaps in wash procedure.
The chief veterinary office warned at the time that the assessments were not a scientific study, but rather a “snapshot” of that particular facility on that particular day.
Hamblin says the new resource was, “perhaps not a response to those assessments, but maybe something that would work in conjunction,” with the results.
“I think that those discussions led to, ‘How can we help? How can we get the information out there, continue the conversation about it, obviously, at these sites, but hopefully continuing when producers leave or transporters leave?’” she said.
Bergman says most current efforts against the disease centre on keeping the virus out of farms, rather than immunity, although she notes they are holding out hope for a vaccine in the future.
An experimental vaccine out of Saskatchewan’s VIDO-InterVac was put to the test in Manitoba last year, the second such small-scale trial since 2016.
Treated barns did not contract the virus, Bergman said, although the trial’s small scale makes it difficult to make any concrete observations.