Serious pig virus now in Eastern Ontario

Photo: Some rights reserved.

Photo: Some rights reserved.

Less than two weeks ago I read a news report that Eastern Ontario was bracing for an anticipated spread of a significant disease plaguing pig farmers in many U.S. states- porcine epidemic diarrhea (PED). Unfortunately, as reported by CBC last Thursday (1/23), it's here:

The first case of porcine epidemic diarrhea, a virus that’s killed over a million piglets in the U.S., has been confirmed in Middlesex County by the Ontario Ministry of Agriculture and Food.

While PED is highly contagious among pigs, it poses no food safety threat or a danger to humans.

“Pigs start to have diarrhea and they dehydrate very quickly and they will die within a day or two," said Robert Friendship, professor at the Ontario Veterinary College at the University of Guelph.

"That will spread throughout all the sows with piglets. Most of the piglets will die," he said.

Jon Stewart made fun of the situation, bemoaning the horror of facing life, or the Super Bowl, with any threat to the nation's love affair with bacon.

By the way, bathroom jokes may be well-nigh irresistible, but PED is strictly a malady of pigs. As this Provincial news release is quick to state: "The virus does not affect food safety, and poses no risk to human health or other animals. Pork remains a safe choice for consumers to eat."

That said, depending on how widely the disease and losses spread, the impact on pork farmers could be considerable. According to Ontario's London Free Press:

The pork board estimates Ontario farmers would take a $45 million hit from the disease.

Producing pigs is a $1 billion a year industry for farmers in Ontario with much of the production concentrated in the London region.

Reports of the disease's spread in the U.S. are summarized in this detailed list from AgriNews dated Jan 8th:

No states have reported their first positive results in the past week, so the total number of states affected remains at 20. The following states all have 10 or more positive PED tests: Iowa, 559; Oklahoma, 262; North Carolina, 258; Minnesota, 153; Kansas, 131; Indiana, 52; Ohio, 47; Colorado, 34; Illinois, 34; Pennsylvania, 27; and Texas, 23.

Note: the same article also states " New York has reported its first positive environmental sample since June." (As best I can tell, this means the number of cases in New York State is small, but the disease is present.)

I can't find anything recent on possible economic and market impact, but here's a link to an Aug 2013 analysis from National Hog Farmer.

The same source has an article from this month about the importance of vigilance regarding PED. For now, the containment and impact of this virus remains uppermost in pork producing circles.

With no cure it's all about prevention – being super clean and not permitting the virus to travel to new locations. Good luck to farmers and truckers facing that mighty challenge.

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