LONDON, ONT. - LONDON, Ont. -- Ontario’s hopes of containing a virus lethal to newborn pigs have suffered a major blow, with a second southwestern Ontario farm confirmed to have the disease.
Consumers are already paying a price for the virus, which has swept across 22 states, killing millions of pigs and driving up the cost of pork.
Weekend lab testing on a 3,000-hog Chatham-Kent operation confirmed the virus porcine epidemic diarrhea (PED), Ontario’s chief veterinarian, Greg Douglas, reported Monday.
Another Chatham-Kent farm is also being investigated for the disease.
The virus was first discovered in Canada last week on a Middlesex County farm where it has killed hundreds of piglets — close to 100% of the newborn pigs.
PED first appeared in the U.S. last spring and has spread to more than 2,000 farms, killing an estimated three million pigs.
Canadian officials have pegged the possible financial toll at $45 million in a year if the disease spreads across Canada.
PED’s arrival in Ontario was a shock for the 1,600 producers, said Amy Cronin, a Huron County pork producer and head of Ontario Pork, the provincial marketing board.
Cronin said she’s been in touch with the affected Middlesex farmer and said it’s an emotionally difficult time for the producer.
“We anticipate this is going to be tough on our industry. It all depends on where it goes from here,” Cronin said.
In confirming the latest Ontario case, Douglas emphasized that PED isn’t a food safety issue and pork remains safe to eat.
Investigators have found no direct connection between the Middlesex farm and the Chatham-Kent operation, he said.
Douglas said officials still believe there are strategies that can help slow the spread of the virus in Ontario.
“However, the confirmed case, the second case and the third under suspicion certainly change the situation, the reality is it’s here in Ontario,” Douglas said in a Monday conference call with media from across North America.
The virus is very contagious and the cold weather is aiding its spread, he said.
Douglas urged farmers to keep up strict bio-security measures and contact their veterinarian immediately if their animals show signs of illness.
“There is certainly lots of opportunities for producers to protect themselves from this disease at the farm gate,” he said.
The virus is usually fatal for young pigs, but older pigs get sick and recover.
With excellent co-operation from the affected farmers, there’s been no move to quarantine the infected farms, Douglas said.
“Animals are not leaving the farm. We are not concerned about them contaminating the Canadian system,” he said.
If additional measures are needed in future, the province would consider regulatory controls, Douglas said.
The outbreak in Southwestern Ontario comes despite increased bio-security measures, including the use of separate trucks to take livestock to the U.S. and the disinfection of returning trucks.
After several rough years, the $5.6-billion hog industry in Canada was on the upswing with prices improving and feed costs dropping.