It was only a matter of time, so it’s not particularly surprising, but a potentially devastating pig disease has made its way into Ontario. It’s not a concern to people or other animals, but it’s worth mentioning here anyway (both to say it’s not a public health or non-pig health concern, and since it’s a good infectious disease topic).

The disease in question is porcine epidemic diarrhea, a rather generically named disease that is caused by the similarly un-originally named porcine epidemic diarrhea (PED) virus, a type of Coronaviridae. Not surprisingly, it causes diarrhea in pigs, but the disease can be devastating. Once on a farm, a large percentage (up to 100% of pigs) can be affected, and death rates can be as high as 100% in young pigs. First identified in the UK in 1971, it’s worked its way across many regions, eventually making it to the US. Its high transmissibility (it can be spread by anything contaminated with pig manure, and it survives very well in the cold, even outside) and presence in the US has indicated a pretty substantial risk of incursion into Ontario, so finding cases in Ontario is unfortunately not surprising.

This evening, the Ontario Ministry of Agriculture and Food announced that the disease has been found on a Middlesex, Ontario farm. It’s a major concern because the disease can have a major impact on pig farms and it’s very difficult to control.  Farmers have been urged to tighten up biosecurity measures for months since the virus emerged in the US in April 2013, and biosecurity measures will be even tighter now to try to prevent further spread. Presumably, a detailed investigation is underway to determine how the virus got onto the farm (and whether it might be on other Ontario farms).

This is a major concern for pig producers in Ontario but of no threat to other animal species, including people.

(click image for source)

  • Dr. Jen Woods

    There was an interview on the CBC tonight with Dr. Greg Douglas (Chief Veterinarian for Ontario) on this subject. He stated exactly the details you’ve said above about the virus being identified in one Ontario farm. The news program made a point of saying that the farm isn’t under quarantine and his response was that if a regulatory instrument be required they might consider it, but in this case he felt it wouldn’t be indicated. I do find this very surprising given what you’ve said in your post. Perhaps the interview skewed or eliminated some details. As the media can do, they certainly gave the impression that the public shouldn’t worry. Clearly there’s no risk to human health but I feel like the impact on animal health and to pork producers was drastically underplayed, in fact completely ignored.

  • Scott Weese

    I suspect this means that the producer is voluntarily quarantining his facility and that OMAF is confident in the measures that are being taken. A good producer is going to be motivated to contain this disease and given the closed nature of most swine farms, they may feel that the risk is being controlled. Presumably, they’ll be watching the situation closely to make sure that the farm doesn’t pose a risk.

  • So we are taking the media’s word for that there is no danger to humans or other animals with this disease. Where is the scientific research? Factory farming has produced and will continue to produce strains of virus that are mutating into other forms much faster than human science can keep up with. The pig industry is a big one. If word got out that eating infected pork might cause ? to humans, that isn’t going to happen. We saw similar scenarios with other animals and the hush hush approach until finally, the bubble burst.