Manitoba’s PEDv outbreak is still in full force, but the industry hopes a new initiative to connect producers will help combat the spread.
This has already become the worst year on record for the virus with over four times as many cases reported as in the previous three years combined.
The Manitoba Coordinated Disease Response initiative is already in place, with about 40 producers registered, the Manitoba Pork Council said.
“What we’re trying to do is set up a defined geographic area and within that, all the swine producers would be part of a group that would be sharing their information about their disease status and how individual operations are managing the disease,” Andrew Dickson, Manitoba Pork Council general manager, said.
Once agreements are signed, information can be shared between producers, Manitoba Pork, veterinarians and other registered stakeholders.
Dickson said the idea was floated years ago to combat the threat of porcine reproductive and respiratory syndrome (PRRS), a condition causing respiratory distress, aborted pregnancies, infertility, weak or stillborn piglets and contributing to pneumonia and other infections.
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The Ontario Swine Health Advisory Board launched a similar program in 2014 when it added PEDv to its Area Regional Control and Elimination project. Until that point, the project had focused on PRRS.
The Ontario program includes notices of nearby outbreaks, disease investigations, financial support for disease prevention and elimination and risk assessments.
By December of that year, over 800 producers had registered.
Dickson said Manitoba’s program will include both in-person meetings and online resources. A website is being developed for member access.
“The aim is to try and provide a lot of information very rapidly to producers so that if somebody gets an infection, pretty well everyone in the area will know within the day who it is and what measures are being taken to control the disease, and then there’ll be regular updates as to what progress is being made, so everybody knows in that area what’s going on. We’re also going to try and include service providers so that they’re aware when they go visit a site what its disease status is.”
In early June, there were several cases of service providers visiting barns without staff being aware and “without procedures being followed to protect the disease-free status of the site,” Manitoba Pork reported at the time.
Manitoba Pork has said written confidentiality agreements will be included in the program. The pork industry has been reluctant to name affected farms, for fear of the stigma associated with PEDv.
“We want to encourage an open atmosphere about problems affecting individual producers so that people realize that their neighbours want to support them,” Dickson said.
Stakeholders can register with the Manitoba Coordinated Disease Response at [email protected] or by phone at 204-235-2305.
As of June 29, PEDv cases in Manitoba had climbed to 41 this year.
Manitoba Pork reports about 50,000 sow spaces, 100,000 feeder spaces and 181,000 nursery spaces have been affected.
“That doesn’t mean every pig is infected,” Dickson said.
Barns are considered wholly infected if any pigs test positive for the disease.
Other barns were knowingly infected when animals showing symptoms, but expected to recover, were shipped.
A five-kilometre buffer around each infected barn has been implemented since the first cases began to appear. Barns within the buffer were warned to tighten biosecurity and veterinarians with customers in the zone were notified. As the outbreak continued, farmers were informed of infected site locations within five kilometres.
Six disease areas have been identified as of June 29, including portions of the municipalities of Hanover, La Broquerie and de Salaberry. Clusters have been noted east of Niverville, south of both St. Pierre-Jolys and Steinbach and south of Ste. Anne.
“It’s a fairly large concern because, right now, I understand these barns will have to be cleaned up and stuff, so it’s a lot of extra expense for farmers and operators and a lot of extra work,” Stan Toews, reeve of the Municipality of Hanover, said.
Toews further noted the trouble officials are having in tracking the disease.
“As long as you don’t know how it’s being transferred from one facility to the next, I don’t know that you can do a whole lot about it,” he said.
Manitoba’s Chief Veterinary Office has released a long list of potential infection sources as the investigation into the outbreak continues. Shared staff, lack of designated footwear, load procedure, improperly washed trailers, drainage and weather, equipment and animal movement were among some of the potential risks.
“There is no one common item that you can say, ‘This is what caused it in all 41 barns,’” Dickson said. “It seems to be multiple reasons, or possible reasons, as to why they got infected. The challenge is that it’s very difficult to show, apart from the ones that we know were deliberately infected, how the disease got on some farms.”
He added, however, that he is confidant the pork industry will beat back the outbreak and that Manitoba’s experience with PEDv this year will better prepare the sector for future disease threats.