Pig Virus Found at Two Canadian Sites, Posing ‘Disastrous’ Loss

Jan 24, 2014 5:27 pm ET

Jan. 24 (Bloomberg) -- A piglet-killing virus that spread last year to hog herds in 23 U.S. states has been detected in the Canadian provinces of Ontario and Quebec.

A farm in Middlesex County, Ontario, tested positive for the porcine epidemic diarrhea virus after a hog producer reported increasing vomiting, diarrhea and death in piglets on Jan. 22, Greg Douglas, the province’s chief veterinarian, said in a telephone interview from Guelph, Ontario. There was also a positive test on Jan. 21 at Olymel S.E.C. LP’s processing facility in Saint-Esprit, Quebec, Richard Vigneault, a spokesman, said by telephone from Montreal.

The virus was diagnosed in the U.S. in May, the Canadian Swine Health Board said in a statement yesterday. PED has a mortality rate of as high as 100 percent in piglets. Canadian industry would suffer “disastrous economic losses” should the disease spread to Canada, as the nation’s herd has no immunity to the disease, according to the board’s website.

“The experience that we’ve seen in the U.S. where it’s continued to spread would likely be the same experience that we would have here in Canada,” Douglas said.

While the affected farm followed strict biosecurity protocols, the virus is “extremely difficult to contain and more cases are possible.” according to a government statement released yesterday.

Trailer and truck movement has helped the virus spread over long-distances, according to Douglas. The source of the virus in Ontario hasn’t been found, and teams are continuing to investigate trucks and deliveries to the farm, he said. The virus survives better in winter and it is a challenge to keep it from entering barns, Douglas said.

Fifty subsequent tests in the Quebec facility, which processes 30,000 hogs a week, were negative for the virus, Vigneault said. The company has boosted testing and efforts to disinfect trucks to avoid introducing the virus to its facilities, he said.

“Now that we know it’s in one place in Ontario, we have to be very, very vigilant,” Vigneault said. The virus may have “a very serious economic impact” on Canada’s pork industry if it spreads and reduces the supply of pigs, he said.

--Editors: Joe Richter, Steve Stroth