Governments step up biosecurity efforts as deadly pig virus hits Canadian farms

The governments of Canada and Ontario are now pumping millions of dollars into biosecurity programs to halt a deadly pig virus that is threatening to spread through the country’s hog farms. The first Canadian case of porcine epidemic diarrhea (PED) was picked up last week in southwestern Ontario. A second case was identified this week not far away and a third is under investigation.

The Ontario government said Tuesday that it has kicked in $2-million to hike things such as cleaning and disinfection measures at assembly yards and truck washing stations. Ontario and Ottawa have also set up a special PED biosecurity program to help “producers, abattoirs, truckers, assembly facilities, and rendering service providers in the pork industry invest in additional biosecurity measures to limit the spread of PED.” 

Canada’s first case was found in a southwestern Ontario community near London. The second case was identified in Chatham-Kent. A third case is under investigation not far away.

The disease is highly contagious and is characterized by barfing pigs and watery diarrhea. While the virus sounds pretty gross, it isn’t a risk to human health or food safety, according to officials. It is almost always fatal for piglets.  But mature pigs can recover. The virus has long been circulating in Europe and Asia, but it hit the United States last year, spreading quickly to dozens of states and wiping out millions of pigs.

“Ontario Pork is safe to eat and a vital part of our agriculture sector. That’s why we’re taking co-ordinated, comprehensive action against this virus. We’re here to help this proud Ontario industry — especially those already affected by PED,” said Ontario Premier Kathleen Wynne, who is also the province’s minister of agriculture and food.

Amy Cronin, chair of Ontario Pork, told the Toronto Star the virus could cost the already suffering Canadian industry $45-million. Ontario Pork, which represents 1,600 hog producers across the province, is now holding town halls to keep farmers informed.

Find everything you probably every wanted to know about PED here.

Photo Ontario Pork Industry Council


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