PED threat remains high

Alberta pork producers continue to keep the porcine epidemic diarrhea (PED) virus at bay, but disease experts warn that the threat remains high.

Alberta pork producers continue to keep the porcine epidemic diarrhea (PED) virus at bay, but disease experts warn that the threat remains high.

Julia Keenliside, a veterinary epidemiologist with Alberta Agriculture and Rural Development, confirmed on Thursday during an Alberta Pork teleconference that no pigs in this province have tested positive for PED. Herds in British Columbia and Saskatchewan have also remained clean, she said, and the number of infected sites in Manitoba have held constant at five.

The importance of vigilance was illustrated in February, when a Saskatchewan farmer refused to allow a trailer onto his premises because he didn’t think it had been washed well enough. Subsequent testing of the trailer, which had previously been used to carry pigs from Montana, produced a positive test for PED, said Keenliside.

Particularly with current wet, muddy conditions, there is a real danger of transmitting the virus on equipment like trucks and trailers, she said.

Egan Brockhoff, a swine vet and owner of Prairie Swine Health Services in Red Deer, agreed.

“It just takes one little slip, and we can find ourselves in a really difficult situation with bringing in this disease.”

Brockhoff praised the efforts of Alberta producers in preventing this, including throughout the winter months when the risk of spread was higher.

“It’s remarkable the effort that pork producers and the pork industry has put into this.”

Other areas of Canada, particularly Ontario, have not been as fortunate. The total number of PED cases nationwide continues to climb and is now up to 100, said Brockhoff. That tally includes only “primary cases,” and not areas like nurseries and finishing barns where infected pigs have been moved to.

Producers in the United States continue to bear the brunt of PED’s impact, with about 150 new cases per week, said Brockhoff. But the rate of spread is slower than last year, he noted, which reflects improved biosecurity measures and the development of vaccines.

In addition to Ontario and Manitoba, pigs have been infected with PED in Quebec and Prince Edward Island. Millions of pigs have succumbed to the virus in the United States, with the disease having a nearly 100 per cent mortality rate in very young animals.

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