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Pork industry nervous as newest PED cases confirmed

Manitoba’s PED record rises to 15 cases total and five this year

Another two barns in southeast Manitoba have tested positive for porcine epidemic diarrhea (PED) in the fourth and fifth cases of the disease this year.

A finisher and sow barn were confirmed PED positive in the space of two days. Manitoba Pork Council general manager Andrew Dickson said finisher barn staff noticed symptoms May 14.

“That doesn’t mean every pig in the barn has got it at this moment in time, it just means some of the pigs got it, but it’s likely to spread,” Dickson said.

The pork council is acting on the assumption that the whole barn is infected.

“The question that then rises is it’s a feeder barn, so did the baby pigs that went into that barn, did they bring it in?” Dickson said.

Another case was confirmed in a nearby sow barn May 18.

Manitoba chief veterinary officer, Dr. Megan Bergman, was not available for comment, but previously told industry broadcast Farmscape that an investigation was underway into the source of the infections.

Two sow operations and another finishing barn were previously confirmed positive for the disease on May 2, May 4 and May 8. All five cases lie within kilometres of each other, the province has said.

The newest report brings Manitoba’s PED cases to 15 since the virus was discovered in the province in 2014.

Losses are not known.

“With the feeder operations, what you tend to do is you get some sick pigs and you get some that don’t make it, but a chunk of them will get through it,” Dickson said.

The larger danger, he noted, was to young animals. The virus is known to cause up to 100 per cent mortality in suckling pigs.

Neighbours asked to monitor

Facilities that have been in contact or lie within five kilometres of infected farms have been asked to monitor for the disease. Testing is ongoing and the provincial Emergency Operations Centre has been active since initial reports of the outbreak. Infected locations have been revealed to veterinarians with clients in the five-kilometre bubble.

Sows in infected locations are being exposed to the virus to bolster immunity in the next generation, the pork council has said. All infected locations are under biocontainment and farm traffic is being strictly controlled.

The Manitoba Pork Council has released expanded biosecurity measures in reaction to the outbreak. Farms in the warning area are encouraged to limit traffic and erect signs or barriers to enforce the rule, wear approved footwear, restrict parking to driveways and roads off site, lime driveways and avoid vehicle contact with dead animals or garbage, which should have a designated pickup zone at the end of the driveway.

“We know there’s been good uptake on the biosecurity because we’ve got relatively few incidents of this disease compared to what we have in the United States or Ontario,” Dickson said.

Ontario broke 100 PED cases this spring while over 3,000 sites in the United States have tested positive for the virus between June 5, 2014 and April 27, 2017, according the U.S. Department of Agriculture.

The Manitoba Pork Council has stressed caution when visiting assembly yards and processing plants, which might house the virus, or when transporting animals to or from the United States.

“It’s really important that the trailers coming back be properly washed and disinfected in wash stations in Manitoba, even though they might have gone to a wash station in the United States,” Dickson said.

Language grew stronger after the most recent confirmed case.

“All producers within the area are strongly encouraged to ensure full compliance of their existing biosecurity protocols — every person, every time — and to contact their herd veterinarian about how to further enhance their protocols. Special focus should be devoted to personnel entry into the barn and load-out area biosecurity,” the pork council advised in its latest PED update.

Since information shared with the province is normally confidential, producers are also encouraged to sign waivers allowing veterinarians to share medical information with each other.

“It’s important that all the veterinarians in the province know what this disease is because you get a barn in southeast Manitoba supplying baby pigs to a barn in western Manitoba. The vets need to know what’s going on,” Dickson said.

All 15 locations where PED has been confirmed in Manitoba have submitted waivers, Dickson said.

The looming cleanup

Barns now face the prospect of disinfecting facilities once symptoms have abated.

“With the feeder barns, they’re going to have to move the animals out,” Dickson said. “They’ll probably have to be moved to the United States, but they have to wait until there’s no symptoms of the disease. For the sow barns, which produce the weanlings, you can’t ship the weanlings to the United States without a health certificate and that means that the animals have to be clear of the disease for 60 days, so that’s going to hinder their plans.”

About the author

Reporter

Alexis Stockford is a journalist and photographer with the Manitoba Co-operator. She previously reported with the Morden Times and was news editor of  campus newspaper, The Omega, at Thompson Rivers University in Kamloops, BC. She grew up on a mixed farm near Miami, Man.

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