A case of a deadly pig virus that has killed one million piglets in the U.S. and discovered on a farm in Ontario is causing concern for Maritime farmers.
A case of Porcine Epidemic Diarrhea virus is now confirmed in Central Canada. The virus poses no food safety risk and is not harmful to humans but it is deadly for piglets, causing them to dehydrate quickly.
Ontario pork farmers braced themselves for the spread since last spring, when PED began ravaging pig populations south of the border, driving up pork prices by 25 per cent.
The state with the largest outbreak of the virus is Iowa, which is also one of the top five states Ontario pork farmers export to.
The news is alarming for pork producers in the Maritimes.
“Well we've been dreading that moment for some time, we've been trying to prepare for it as best we can, “ said P.E.I. farmer Donald MacDonald.
“It's very virulent. It only takes a tiny speck of virus to survive and infect a farm, and the results are devastating when it does.”
Most of P.E.I.'s pigs are sent to Central Canada to be slaughtered. Trucks, and drivers travel back and forth with the animals.
“If the virus is present in Ontario, or anywhere in Central Canada, the risk is that a contaminated vehicle will bring that virus back to the Maritimes and it may infect one of our farms,” said Dan Hurnik, a pig production and disease specialist at the Atlantic Veterinary College.
Vaccines developed to combat the virus in Europe and China have so far been ineffective.
While larger pigs can become immune to PED, the virus kills close to 100 per cent of the piglets it infects.
The cold weather is making things worse.
“Cold weather, frozen snow and so on, preserves that virus. And so we believe there's a greater risk in the winter than there is in the summer when things dry out,” said Hurnik.
Hurnik and the AVC are asking producers to be extra vigilant in terms of disinfecting trucks, clothing, and anything that may have come in contact with the virus.
MacDonald said his farm and the truck driver he uses will be taking those precautions.
“We have to be really cautious that all of the protocols are being met and followed,” he said.
For now, no animals are leaving the farm in Ontario where the virus was found. Authorities hope that will be enough to stop the spread in Canada.