Manitoba farmers scramble to contain pork virus

Farmers in Manitoba, Canada’s third-largest pork producing province, are scrambling to contain a mysterious outbreak of a rapidly spreading virus that’s deadly to piglets and threatens to harm their industry.

Since May 2, porcine epidemic diarrhea has hit 51 pork operations in the province, housing about 20 per cent of the province’s sows as well as hundreds of thousands of young pigs.

“It caught us off-guard,” said Andrew Dickson, general manager of the Manitoba Pork Council said Monday.

“We had a total of 10 cases in three years, so that’s what’s throwing us off for a loop … What happened this year that we’ve suddenly got 50?”

He said the virus has so far been contained to about a half-hour’s drive radius surrounding Steinbach, southeast of Winnipeg, and farmers are doing what they can — including reviewing biosecurity measures, equipment and clothing — to stop it from spreading.

Although it doesn’t pose a threat to human health or food, porcine epidemic diarrhea is almost always fatal for pigs under three weeks of age due to dehydration.

Dickson said trucks that ship swine to the U.S. used to have to be cleaned in Manitoba, where he says the process is more thorough than it is south of the border. But that requirement has been lifted, and he believes that may be a possible cause behind the outbreak.

“I’m not going to say it’s caused all of them, but it doesn’t help knowing that some of these trailers may be coming back not clean, or been infected,” he said.

Dickson said he has called on the federal government to put the requirement back in place and is hopeful it’s listening. The Canadian Food Inspection Agency didn’t respond to a request for comment by press time.

Megan Bergman, Manitoba’s chief veterinary officer, said that while there haven’t been cases of the virus directly tied to trailers, the province still encourages operators to wash trailers again in Canada because they can’t be sure how well they’ve been cleaned in the U.S.

She said it would make sense to require trailers coming back to Canada be washed with the high-temperature water and heat drying used here that helps sanitize them.

“It allows us to have that extra layer of security to be able to use these facilities in Canada. So certainly we believe that would be a tool in our toolbox, if we can limit the amount of washing that occurs in the U.S.”

In the meantime, Bergman said the province and industry have set up buffer zones around the affected farms and created a disease management group to share information and co-ordinate efforts.

She said the province has also been helping out with the mental health issues that come with a widespread diseases.

“The impact on individual producers and their farms can be very devastating.”

According to the CFIA, the first confirmed case of the virus in Canada was in January 2014, in Ontario, just as an outbreak swept through the U.S., killing more than eight million piglets.

Since then, the virus has also been reported in Quebec and Prince Edward Island.

Just Posted

Huge RV resort proposed for Buffalo Lake

Some residents feel 800-lot RV resort too big for area

Updated: Red Deer gets WHL Bantam Draft and Awards Banquet

WHL will holds its draft and awards ceremony in Red Deer for next three years

Land wanted for Central Alberta Foodgrains project

23rd year for Lacombe area charity

Stolen vehicle found thanks to tip from motorist

Charges laid against Red Deer man and Leduc County woman

City prepares for legal marijuana

Legalized recreational marijuana expected to have impact on many city policies

How to keep local news visible in your Facebook feed

Facebook has changed the news feed to emphasize personal connections. You might see less news.

Greyhound cleared to end routes in northern B.C., Vancouver Island

Company says nine routes have dropped 30% in ridership in last five years

Evangelist Billy Graham, who reached millions, dies at 99

MONTREAT, N.C. — The Rev. Billy Graham, who transformed American religious life… Continue reading

Amid a flood of plastic, big companies see opportunity

LONDON — Public awareness of the problem of plastic waste is swelling… Continue reading

Ambulance’s slow response time angers family

Woman suffers stroke, waits nearly an hour for ambulance

Over-burdened refugee tribunal ditches legislated timelines for hearings

OTTAWA — The Immigration and Refugee Board is giving up on following… Continue reading

Sheraton Celebrity Dance Off profile: Troy Gillard

** Sheraton Celebrity Dance Off takes place on April 14 at the Sheraton Red Deer

New mobile paramedic program starts in Red Deer

Paramedics provide on-site care to those with chronic conditions

Most Read


Five-day delivery plus unlimited digital access for $185 for 260 issues (must live in delivery area to qualify) Unlimited Digital Access 99 cents for the first four weeks and then only $15 per month Five-day delivery plus unlimited digital access for $15 a month