By Connor Lynch
FERGUS — Three Ontario hog operations infected by the Porcine Epidemic Diarrhea virus (PEDV) are not working at eliminating the virus that often kills piglets within 48 hours. But that doesn’t make the farms a risk for other producers, said Dr. Tim Blackwell, lead OMAFRA veterinarian for disease prevention in swine.
“We only have two years’ experience with this disease so we don’t have the whole picture, but we seem to be able to keep a lid on this better than other (diseases),” Blackwell said. “There’s not a lot of spread.”
There have been 88 confirmed cases of PEDV in Ontario since 2014. Eighty-five cases went through or are going through extensive cleaning of their barns and more testing for the virus. The cleaning process includes infecting as quickly as possible the rest of the herd to develop herd immunity.
Animals remain contagious for three to four weeks after getting sick. After that they’re immune and sows will pass on their immunity to their piglets.
But there are three or four infected farms that are choosing not to infect the remainder of their herd to eliminate the virus.
Why? “Depending on your operation, it can be very easy, or it can be very difficult,” said Dr. Doug MacDougald, a veterinarian with South West Ontario Veterinary Services. And because there’s no requirement for farmers to eliminate the virus, some may be opting not to bother.
For Blackwell, the issue just highlights the constant tension between farmers and government. “When is it the role of government to tell the farmer what to do? That balance is a little tricky sometimes. This one might fall into that tricky area.
“(PEDV is one of the) diseases we want to know about, but we’re short of dictating what you should do with it,” he said. “We could eradicate it, so we should,” but he added that “we’re not here to tell farmers what they should or shouldn’t deal with.”
“It’s currently in the hands of private industry and individual farms what’s to be done about the virus, if anything,” said Dr. Janet Alsop, lead veterinarian for regulatory response with OMAFRA.
PEDV can be contained on an infected farm, asserted veterinarian and Ontario Pork biosecurity co-ordinator Mike DeGroot. “There is always a risk when they are moved (off-farm).”
The virus is of no risk to humans and doesn’t affect food safety, the vets say.