New swine disease promts proactive measures

Officials warn producers to keep tabs on their livestock in wake of disease similar to PED

Tuesday, Jul 08, 2014 06:00 am | BY Kevin Vink

Pork producers in the region need to be wary of a new virus that has recently been gaining a foothold in Eastern Canada, and which has already taken hold in the U.S., say officials.

Dr. Julia Keenliside – a veterinary epidemiologist who performs research as well as program and policy development for the Government of Alberta – said that although there have been no signs of Swine Delta Coronavirus (SDCV) in the province, producers need to remain proactive to ensure the disease is kept out.

Provincial governments around the country have made it a reportable disease in a proactive effort to ensure that if the disease does make an appearance, it can be contained.

Although SDCV does not affect food safety and is only transmittable between pigs, the symptoms are very similar to those of Porcine Epidemic Diarrhoea (PED), which has been credited for an estimated one million piglet deaths in the U.S. in the past year alone, she said.

SDCV doesn’t appear to be as common as PED is in the U.S., but there’s not enough information available to really say, because it is such a new disease.

It hasn’t been reported in Canada until spring this year, after it showed up in Ontario in March. Before then, it had only ever been reported in a survey in China, she said.

“And so we made it reportable because we could see that it could be an issue and we’re trying to be proactive and get out ahead of this one,” said Keenliside.

By making a disease reportable, anyone who suspects the disease might be present in their animals must report it to the chief provincial veterinarian within 24 hours of discovery, she noted.

“In this case we’re not quarantining herds or killing pigs or stopping people from moving them. What we want to do is work with affected farms to help them contain the disease and prevent it from spreading to other farms,” she said.

Currently all provinces have followed similar measures with PED, and those measures have been successful in keeping it out of many provinces and containing it in others where there have been outbreaks.

Such measures have prevented the widespread outbreak of PED that is currently being seen in the U.S., she noted.

Although little is known about the new virus, because it exhibits similar symptoms to those of PED, the provincial government has made the proactive moves to keep it at bay if it does enter the province.

Because the two diseases are so similar, producers who suspect their swine may have either one, they are encouraged to call their veterinarian, who will take samples and submit them to Alberta Agriculture in Edmonton, where the samples will be tested.

The viruses survive better in the cold than in warm weather.

“So in Ontario and in Canada, we’re seeing fewer cases right now from the outbreak this spring, but we expect once the cold weather comes in the fall again, that we will become a higher risk again, because the disease does exist in Montana and they have had cases in Manitoba,” she said.

The prime risk of introducing disease is through contaminated trucks or trucking.

“Anything that can move the feces of a pig can move the virus, and so this is really a transport disease, and that’s why you’re seeing a lot of washing, drying and disinfecting of trucks. That can be harder to do in winter,” she said.

“Come fall and winter, I think our risk will go up again because there’s so much of it in the U.S.and we do have trucks and trailers going across the border.”

And the risk is even higher because the sanitation policies in the U.S. are less stringent than they are in Canada – a factor that has led to the problems with PED down there in the first place, she added.

“Our biosecurity is better. Our producers have really worked on improving their biosecurity and I think this is really showing that biosecurity keeps disease out. In the U.S. they don’t have the same level of biosecurity and the disease has really spread,” she said.

“So my parting message to producers is don’t get complacent and keep up your biosecurity, especially going into the fall and winter. And please report it. The sooner we can find out and the sooner we can help producers to manage the disease the less of it there will be.”


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