By Trudy Kelly Forsythe
Within a week of the first report of porcine epidemic diarrhea on a farm in Ontario on Jan. 22, the Canadian Pork Council took steps to mobilize a PED Strategic Task Force to standardize efforts across Canada to deal with the virus.
"The swine industry has been actively following the situation in the U.S. and the risks associated with the rapid spread of the virus," CPC first vice chair Rick Bergmann said in a media release announcing the new task force. "We have been in constant contact with swine health experts in Canada and our counterparts in the U.S. to understand PED and share the most current information and practices."
Robert Harding, executive director of the Canadian Swine Health Board, says the virus would be spreading more swiftly throughout Canada if it weren't for stricter measures taken after the U.S. outbreak. That heads up, along with more vigilant farm practices in recent years, has helped minimize its impact thus far.
"For the past three years, the pork industry has worked hard to prepare for, and has taken preventative measures to slow viruses like PED from affecting Canada's herd health," says Jean-Guy Vincent, CPC's chair. "With federal government assistance, Canadian Swine Health Board proactively developed and implemented a biosecurity program to help minimize herd health risks."
It is unknown exactly how the virus got into Canada, but one way the virus can spread is through the vehicles carrying swine to and from farms. This remains a focus in the battle against PED as pig-hauling trucks are thoroughly washed before rolling onto farms. Because PED can be carried in manure, boots and clothing worn outside are being swapped for farm-only pairs.
The provinces and the federal government are working together to tighten biosecurity efforts and share information, while the Canadian Food Inspection Agency is letting veterinarians import a special emergency vaccine.
CFIA is also conducting tests to determine if feed may be a contributing factor in the current PED situation. Testing determined that PED virus was present in samples of U.S.-origin plasma obtained at the third-party manufacturer for Grand Valley Fortifiers. This plasma was used as an ingredient in feed pellets produced by the company.
Further testing will be done to assess if the feed pellets are capable of causing virus in piglets, and testing will continue to confirm a direct link between the feed and the spread of the virus. The virus is only confirmed in a single ingredient at this time.
On Feb. 9, Grand Valley Fortifiers issued a voluntary recall for certain pelleted swine nursery feed products containing porcine plasma.
The CFIA is also reviewing records of other imports of swine plasma and will work with the Council of Chief Veterinary Officers and the pork industry in Canada to proactively manage the possible risk of transmission through feed.
The latest figures show 21 Ontario on-farm cases of PED. There is one confirmed case in Manitoba and one suspected case in Prince Edward Island.