Concerns about deadly pig disease prompt safety warnings on Island

By Kayla Fraser
Feb. 25, 2014

Experts are telling Island pig breeders to keep biosecurity measures in place during the outbreak of a deadly pig disease, which has one confirmed case on P.E.I.
The Canadian Food Inspection Agency says biosecurity principles for the hog sector include isolation, sanitation, traffic control, herd health management and program maintenance.
Tim Seeber, executive director of the P.E.I. Hog Marketing Board, said the disease, Porcine Epidemic Diarrhea, is easily spread among pigs, but there are controls in place.
Biosecurity is heightened and no movement of animals can take place, he said.
“Once the disease is around for so long, it will die out especially in warmer weather so the hope is that is doesn’t spread to other farms.”
It has contaminated many farms in Ontario, but they’re hoping to control it soon, he said.
Brian Matheson, manager of agriculture regulatory programs at the P.E.I. Deparment of Agriculture, said Porcine Epidemic Diarrhea is a viral disease that is very contagious among pigs. It kills 80 to 100 per cent of piglets, he said.
“Initially, it has quite a dramatic effect though, it will kill 80, probably 90 to 100 per cent of the baby pigs.”
Building the pigs’ immunity is a necessary step, he said.
“Eventually the pigs will develop an immunity to the disease, so they’ll be able to live with the disease.”
Seeber agrees.
He said the disease will likely kill 100 per cent of suckling pigs from three to four weeks. It does affect larger hogs, but it sets them back rather than killing them, although there may be some mortalities. He advises farmers to make sure the larger hogs are given electrolytes so they don’t dehydrate.
Other than controlling the infected facility, farmers should make sure all the livestock gets exposed to the virus to build immunity, he said.
“If they can keep the virus contained on that farm for three to four weeks, there’s a possibility that they’ll have immunity and that it won’t spread to other farms.”
Regarding biosecurity, Matheson said producers should make sure they control what and who comes on and off their farms.
“The industry as a whole can make sure that they clean and disinfect any vehicles that have housed pigs coming from areas that have had pigs. It’s just a number of biosecurity measures that any farmers in the industry themselves can take on. That would be the best way to control it.”
The department and the hog board are monitoring other provinces to figure out how to handle everything, he said. There are confirmed cases in P.E.I., Manitoba, Quebec and Ontario, he said.
“Anything that will fit here and any changes that they’re making that will help here, we’ll look at adopting them as well.”
Seeber said people have to remember the disease was discovered in the United States almost a year ago and has been in Canada since January. Raised levels of biosecurity in Canada have been in place for the past 12 months, he said.
“Everybody’s been well aware of it and preparing for it.”
Nancy Weicker of the Canadian Swine Breeders Association, said biosecurity measures should be maintained.
“Everyone is stressing.”
Washing vehicles that carry pigs and disinfecting barns is one way to keep clean, she said.
They have been taking precautions since the outbreak in the United States last year, she said.
The disease is hard for the hog breeders and the market dollars, she said.
“I’m sure it’s devastating. You lose production for six weeks and that’s a blow for the whole year.”
Since many of the pigs with the disease die at young ages, it is hard to get good meat to sell.
“I guess you could say it wasn’t unexpected.”
The Canadian Swine Breeders Association is an organization that keeps records of the purity of pigs in Canada, with about 100 members across the country.
“We register about 15 breeds of pigs.”
She said farms should make sure they increase their biosecurity to maintain good production practices.
“Let’s hope it moves fast out of the country.”