The number of confirmed cases of on-farm porcine epidemic diarrhea virus (PEDv) in Manitoba has officially entered the double digits and more are expected to arise over the next few months.
“We are entering the season now where it is getting cooler and damper and those are the ideal conditions for this disease to spread. We will likely see more cases being confirmed over the next few months,” said Andrew Dickson, general manager of the Manitoba Pork Council.
Manitoba’s 10th case of PEDv was found on Sept. 21 at a finisher farm in southeast Manitoba. The farm is located within five kilometres of the sow farm that was confirmed positive for PEDv the previous week.
The operator is currently working with a veterinarian and Manitoba’s chief veterinary office (CVO) to contain the site and make plans for animal care and site cleanup.
Farms located within a five-kilometre radius of this operation have been notified and are being tested.
Confirmed cases of PEDv began popping up in the province in late May of this year, after being free of the disease for 16 months.
“It is difficult to pinpoint a source of introduction. There are known sources in Manitoba. For example, we know that assembly yards are contaminated with the virus and we know trailers that have been down to the U.S. and aren’t washed or disinfected properly are very likely to be infected due to the high virus load there,” Dickson said.
The first case in the string of 10 was found on May 26, less than one month after the Canadian Food Inspection Agency (CFIA) lifted an emergency transportation protocol.
The emergency transportation protocol had required drivers to seal livestock trailers at the border upon their return to Canada and travel immediately to a Canadian wash station to be disinfected.
When this protocol was lifted, livestock trailers were required to be washed in the U.S. before returning to Canada.
“The chances of a trailer becoming infected at a U.S. wash station are high and we are saying from a disease management perspective, it makes more sense to keep the disease-free status of that trailer intact and get it back in Canada so it doesn’t get infected,” Dickson said.
Producers and industry members have been lobbying CFIA to reinstate the emergency transportation protocol ever since it was lifted.
“We are trying to get CFIA to give us an option to allow trailers to be washed in Manitoba without having to be washed and disinfected in the U.S.,” Dickson said. “CFIA is looking at what it can do. The problem is in the legislation, as it limits its ability to offer options. So, it is looking at the current regulations to see if there is a way that it can allow that to happen.”
Dickson explains that Manitoba has been able to keep the disease relatively at bay in comparison to our neighbours to the south through tight biosecurity measures and maintaining ports of entry.
“For starters our pig density here is much less than it is in say, Iowa. The state of Iowa produces 35 million to 37 million pigs a year and we produce about nine million,” Dickson said. “Our barns are also farther apart, we have very strict biosecurity measures and we spend a lot of time and money as an industry training staff and service providers to maintain these measures.”
In terms of transportation, Dickson says Manitoba has gone out of the way to make sure trailers are going to central sites and are being properly disinfected.
“We also have a limited number of ways the virus could be introduced into the province. There is only one or two ports of entry into Canada from the U.S. into our market, so if those trailers that come through are properly disinfected, we can keep the level of disease at bay,” Dickson said. “And, we are unique in that. If you are in Iowa, they have farmer roads and numerous highways. There is just no way they can control the points of entry there.”
He adds that Western Canada’s approach to managing PEDv has been very different than in the U.S.
“We are taking the approach of keeping the disease out and if we get a case, we go in and rapidly clean it up and not let it drag on,” Dickson said. “In the U.S., the approach has been to let the disease wash through the national herd and hopefully enough resistance will build up in the sows that the mortalities will eventually drop. But, we simply can’t afford to lose that number of baby pigs. And from a general care point of view, we want these animals to be healthy and become mature animals that we can market.”
PEDv causes severe dehydration and diarrhea in pigs and is generally fatal in young animals. It does not transmit to humans or other animals and is no risk to food safety.
Since the disease first appeared in the U.S. in 2013, more than eight million pigs have died from PEDv in North America.
In Canada, Ontario has had the most confirmed cases of the virus since it first appeared in the country in 2014, and the rest of Western Canada has steered clear of the virus thus far, with no clinical on-farm cases being recorded west of Winnipeg.
Producers in the sector are being asked to be extremely vigilant when it comes to biosecurity protocol and to proceed with caution when dealing with any trailers that may be returning from assembly yards.
“Go back and look at your biosecurity plan and make sure that you are doing what you are planning. Also, make sure that every person in the organization is a part of that plan,” Dickson said. “The other thing to think about is the service providers, the guy who does the meter reading for Hydro, the guy who picks up the garbage, the pizza delivery. Everybody has got to be on top of their game and doing their bit to control the spread of this disease.”
In the meantime, sector research and development has been moving forward with a vaccine.
The Vaccine and Infectious Disease Organization-International Vaccine Centre is in the final phase of testing a PEDv vaccine at the University of Saskatchewan.
Commercial production of the vaccine is being fast tracked by the European pharmaceutical company, Huvepharma but commercial availability in Canada will depend on how quickly trial results can be obtained.
“The development of this vaccine is pretty critical. Like all disease, having a vaccine is your first line of defence. They are hoping that something will be available this winter but a lot will depend on how the trial goes,” Dickson said.