When the PED virus broke out in the United States in May of 2013, it gave the Canadian pig industry eight months to get ready for the inevitable – testing positive for the first case in Canada.
This dreaded bombshell dropped right during the Boar Pit Session, the conclusion to another successful Banff Pork Seminar on January 23, 2014, although other challenges indicated by the program theme, existed in the hog industry.
Dr. Doug MacDougald, with Southwest Ontario Veterinary Services , the quarterback for the PED virus outbreak protocol in Ontario, Quebec, and Manitoba says good biosecurity on exclusion and the ability keep that virus from entering new pig sites with elimination strategies helped them prove they can eliminate it from any type of pig farm configuration.
“The really great news is that with being successful in all those areas, we really prevented the widespread of the virus throughout Ontario and Canada,” said Dr. MacDougald. “I’m hopeful we can use Canada’s experience with PED to prepare for the next emerging disease that occurs in Canada.”
Define the state of the industry as it relates to the PED virus today.
Dr. MacDougald says Ontario obviously has had the great majority of the cases, Western Canada a small number, and they are all eliminated now.
“Quebec had a small number of cases, I think 15 sites infected or contaminated and they are projecting they will be negative by later this fall,” he says. “Ontario had 53 cases from the first indexed case January 2, 2014, and we ended up with 63 cases through until the summer of last year.”
MacDougald says they projected, based on the biosecurity and the high successful elimination of the virus on most of those  63 primary cases, that if they could get through to this spring (2015) with less than 20 new cases, they’d be in a great position with a smaller footprint to wrap their arms around a potential elimination direction.
“Since last summer through until now, we’ve had a total of 21 cases in Ontario,” MacDougald says. “So we really set our objective that containment strategies are vital – that is just good biosecurity strategy, to not have the virus escape from an infected site.”
Dr. MacDougald reported Canada’s first case of PED virus in Banff in January 2014, and described what went through his mind when he received that news and what was the first thing that needed doing.
“The first thing we absolutely had to do and did, was track any potential contacts with that index farm, transports, pig movements, other truck services, and step up our surveillance and monitoring of any potential contacts to see,” he said. “If there was a virus in any other place and that is really classic epidemiology you look at it, and do surveillance on any potential contacts and determine where else that virus might be.”
Then start tracking new cases as they occur because they had no idea how many new cases would pop up, and certainly no idea it would be feed contamination that would be driving it.
“We thought it would simply reside in and primarily be transported by pig movement and end up in the assembly yards.”
Dr. MacDougald describes the key to getting us where the industry is today.
“We were somewhat prepared. I mean we could never be totally prepared, but because it was identified from May of 2013, and some of us, myself included were very involved in the U.S. industry,” he said. “I oversaw the health of production in the U.S., we were experiencing PED, so had hands on experience with PED, so it wasn’t just a theoretical disease for us.”
Having that time, from May 2013 to January 22, 2014, to prepare and put some things in place, helped the Canadian situation immensely.
“We had well started a project through  the Ontario Health Swine Advisory Board, OSHED, and Ontario Pork, doing surveillance on returning U.S. livestock trucks, putting measures in place identifying the gaps of biosecurity on that transport, and trying to plug those gaps as best we could,” said MacDougald. “We were, and correctly so, putting the returning trucks from the U.S. as the primary risk factor for introduction of PED into Canada.”
Being well along on plugging the identified gaps and having much more confidence on returning truck biosecurity; all of that stood them in good stead.
“We were ramped up with testing, so our labs were able to ramp up very quickly and do hundreds and hundreds of tests in a short period of time because we were ready for that,” he said. “That greatly enabled us to do more widespread surveillance, follow up and do extensive testing on a surveillance basis and for helping identify the feed contamination as well.”
The industry could mobilize very quickly and that really, and with the sharing of information through that response team enabled them to connect the dots and identify feed contamination as the risk factor and shut that down very quickly.  •
— By Harry Siemens