Alberta Pork and Alberta Agriculture and Forestry hosted a town hall teleconference on May 14 for over 70 producers and industry partners, related to ongoing investigation of porcine epidemic diarrhea (PED) in our province, including progress to date.
Alberta Pork continues to work closely with Alberta Agriculture and Forestry to prevent the disease from spreading further and fully investigate the source of the outbreaks.
Listen to a recording of the full teleconference and find a written summary of the discussion below.
Updates from Julia Keenliside, Veterinary Epidemiologist, Alberta Agriculture and Forestry
- Alberta remains at four PED-infected premises, confirmed in the first three months of this year. It has now been eight weeks since the last case.
- The first confirmed case was over 300 kilometres away from the second case, suggesting they are not directly connected. However, it is suspected that the virus could have spread directly from second farm to third and fourth farms, which are all within a 50 kilometres radius of each other.
- Cases of PED have appeared across Canada this year, but it is unclear if they are connected to the situation in Alberta. There are no obvious connection between cases in Alberta with cases in Ontario or Quebec, but there are some possible connections being investigated with the cases in Manitoba, including a previously used manure agitator that was purchased from that province and put to work on one of the farms.
- Areas of risk ruled out include abattoirs and assembly yards. None of the four affected sites regularly transport hogs outside of Alberta.
- Full genome sequencing is required to determine how closely related virus strains are. Preliminary results show that there are some similarities to the Manitoba and Ontario strains, but the only known potential transport connection exists with Manitoba.
- A negative test result does not mean a site is free from PED. “Presumptive negative” status means the barn and herd are free of PED, but not necessarily manure.
- Manure spreading has resumed at three of the four affected sites, but precautionary measures were taken before this occurred. All sites are now within the time period that their herds should have stopped shedding the virus, which is a four- to six-week timeframe.
- There are several ways to eliminate PED in lagoons, but time is the most important factor. Other strategies include flushing, since the virus does not replicate in the lagoon. Disinfection using chemicals can be difficult given the volume of a lagoon, but this is also an option. Untouched, PED can survive in a lagoon for four to six months.
- All four affected farms mix their own feed using on-farm mills. Feed ingredients used at the four farms have been found to originate from 10 different countries, including five different Canadian provinces and four different U.S. states. It is possible that feed trucks from Iowa, South Dakota or Manitoba have brought the virus, but this remains inconclusive.
- Links are also being investigated with contaminated feed, but that is difficult to prove. Porcine plasma was used on the first two farms but not last two. Plasma manufactured in Quebec relies on blood from Ontario sources, which is a possible but unlikely link.
- The first farm switched to plasma not long before becoming infected. No other farms feeding plasma from this source have been infected.
- Three of the four farms source feed from separate companies, and the fourth farm sources feed from multiple companies. There is some overlap between those companies and the other farms but no obvious path for transmission.
Updates from Keith Lehman, Chief Provincial Veterinarian, Alberta Agriculture and Forestry
- Five veterinarians separately supporting the affected farms have requested an emergency drug release for a PED vaccine to be used as part of the disease management strategy. The vaccine does not prevent infection, so it is not recommended for use on PED-free farms, but the vaccine will increase the immunity of the sows, which will better protect vulnerable piglets.
- Currently, there is no PED vaccine stock in Canada. PED vaccines used in Manitoba and Ontario are imported directly by veterinarians, and at least one vaccine is experimental. Demand in the U.S. and Mexico also affects availability.
- Three of four affected farms are still raising pigs. All three farms were cleared to market their animals four to six weeks following discovery of PED, to ensuring the pigs were no longer shedding the virus. The facilities where those pigs were taken were disinfected after handling the pigs.
- Transport routes for affected farms were evaluated to try to prevent contact with other operations. Producers in these areas were notified by Alberta Pork. It was mostly possible to avoid other pig premises, except for a few hobby farms in proximity to roadways.
- Live pigs transported to the U.S. have specific export requirements, but infected pigs being shipped directly to U.S. abattoirs require no special certificates. Veterinarians from the U.S. Department of Agriculture (USDA) inspect shipments upon arrival at the border, and with a vet’s go-ahead, the shipment passes through.
Updates from Javier Bahamon, Quality Assurance and Production Manager, Alberta Pork
- Alberta Pork’s environmental surveillance program is based on a plan developed in 2014.
- The program tracks the status of all coronaviruses in all high-traffic areas in Alberta.
- Ten high-traffic pig sites are currently participating in the program, including all three federal processors in the province, four truck washes and three assembly yards.
- Surveillance has increased by 110 per cent since the first outbreak, which included collecting over 2,000 samples. Of these samples, 54 percent were taken from processors, 28 per cent from assembly yards and 18 per cent from truck washes.