Producers given graphic warning of threat of Porcine Epidemic Diarrhea

A slurry is made from piglet intestines to prevent future infections. 
photo: Matt Ackerman

Transportation presents pork producers with significant challenge when it 
comes to keeping Porcine Epidemic Diarrhea from crossing the border

Photos of skeletal, feces-strewn piglets flash across a large screen during a recent pork producer meeting, graphically illustrating the devastating effects of Porcine Epidemic Diarrhea (PED).

“We want people to see this and know how serious it is,” council chairman Karl Kynoch told the audience at the William Glesby Centre.

“Everything you can do to keep this virus out of here will benefit the entire industry.”

Although no cases have been reported in Canada, about 800 American farms in 18 states have been hit so far. As that number rises, so do concerns the disease will cross the border via contaminated transport trailers or trucks.

“Transportation we think is the highest risk area for the disease,” said Miles Beaudin, the council’s manager of quality assurance. “It’s spreading rapidly and it’s not seasonal.”

Transmission occurs primarily through the ingestion of fecal matter, but Beaudin noted airborne transmission has occurred where there is a heavy virus load and barns are close together.

“But cross-contamination of fecal matter is our biggest concern,” said Beaudin, adding the risk is greatest when transport trailers have not been properly cleaned and disinfected.

Kynoch noted Maple Leaf Foods is using large plastic “condoms” to protect loading docks and trucks from fecal contamination during off-loading.

Boots, clothing and sorting boards should also be disinfected and separated to prevent cross-contamination. Heat is an effective way to disinfect, with the virus beginning to die off at 122 C, although a temperature of 140 C is recommended.

Trucks coming from the U.S. are the major concern.

“The Americans don’t have as tight biosecurity as we do, so they may have common shuttles between sows and nursery, and nursery and finisher… so you can see how infections do cross over,” Beaudin said.

If a herd is infected, it won’t take long to notice. In neonatal pigs, the disease needs as little as eight hours to incubate, with death often occurring in about five days.

“It’s basically like Draino,” said Beaudin, explaining the virus strips the intestines of their villi — the tiny fingers of cells that allow water and nutrients to be absorbed.

The disease also strikes sows and feeder pigs, although with less mortality.

It is possible to boost the herd’s immunity by implementing a feedback program using the blended small intestines of piglets that have died from the virus mixed with non-chlorinated water. With this system, all breeder pigs are fed about one tablespoon of the intestine slurry once a day for a week to inoculate against future infections.

In feedback trials, PED was controlled in groups of sows that received the feedback treatment at least three weeks before farrowing.

Despite the gory effects of the virus on pigs, Beaudin said it’s integral for the public to know the coronavirus that causes PED isn’t a food safety concern.

“It’s important to note that PED is not zoonotic, which means it does not affect people or other animals,” he said.

But an outbreak will affect a producer’s bottom line, Kynoch said.

“It’s been a tough last three or four years, and now we’re finally making profits,” he said. “Just keeping this disease out of your barn could be the difference between actually making a profit for the next 12 months and not making a profit.”

He added the number of pig deaths in the U.S. has actually increased the price of hogs.

“I think going forward we need to take advantage of that and we need to do everything possible to keep those biosecurity protocols as high as possible and keep this out of the barns,” he said.

About the author


Shannon VanRaes is a journalist and photojournalist at the Manitoba Co-operator. She also writes a weekly urban affairs column for Metro Winnipeg, and has previously reported for the Winnipeg Sun, Outwords Magazine and the Portage Daily Graphic.



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