Quebec’s agriculture ministry confirmed the province’s first case of porcine epidemic diarrhea Sunday, a deadly virus that has already killed millions of piglets in the United States.
Known as PED, the virus originated in China before arriving in the United States and Canada, where cases have been confirmed in Ontario, Prince Edward Island, Manitoba and now Quebec.
Quebec’s first case of PED was detected in test samples from a herd on a farm in the Montérégie region south of Montreal. The pigs have no clinical signs of the illness but agricultural ministry officials now have the farm under quarantine to prevent the virus from spreading.
Officials underlined that there is no risk to humans from PED, which is unique to pigs and affects their digestive system.
There is no known treatment or vaccine for PED, which is deadly for piglets but not adult pigs.
Agricultural ministry officials are keeping a close eye on other pork producers in Quebec and have an action plan in effect in concert with partners from the province’s pork industry.
“We have to remain vigilant and ensure that strict biosecurity measures are applied by transporters, slaughterhouses, producers, goods and service providers and visitors,” said Dr. Michel Major, Quebec’s chief veterinarian.
While there are no health consequences for humans from PED, it could have a major impact on Quebec's pork industry.
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Gaelle Leruste, a spokeswoman for Quebec's pork producer's association, said a conservative estimate of the potential economic impact is $50 million in the first year.
"If you're losing all your piglets, you have to wait for another three-and-half months and that has an impact on your productivity and on your revenue," she said.
Pork producers who believe they may have other cases of the PED are asked to contact their veterinarian immediately as well as Quebec’s porcine health unit at 1-866-363-2433 for information on how to contain the virus. Information on the virus can also be found on the agricultural ministry’s website.