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First suspected case of pig virus reported at Prince Edward Island pork farm

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CHARLOTTETOWN - A national agency is reporting the first suspected case of a deadly pig virus in Prince Edward Island.

The Canadian Swine Health Intelligence Network issued a bulletin on Thursday that says a case of suspected porcine epidemic diarrhea virus was detected by a veterinary lab on the Island overnight Wednesday.

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The agency — which distributes information to the industry and government departments — says in a memo the regional test has been sent to the National Centre of Foreign Animal Disease in Winnipeg for confirmation.

The email says investigations have already started in P.E.I. to find out how the virus arrived on the farm, as it "initially appears there is no direct link with other cases in Canada."

The intelligence network says Ontario was the first province to report a case of PED on Jan. 22, and as of Friday had 13 confirmed cases.

Manitoba also reported a case Thursday night.

The disease poses no risk to human health or safety.

However, the virus is highly contagious and it has already killed millions of piglets in the United States.

Chris Byra, manager of the swine intelligence network, said in an interview the confirmation by the federal lab in Winnipeg is likely to come swiftly.

He also said in an interview that the pigs on the infected farm will likely be slaughtered at an abattoir and then the slaughterhouse will be disinfected.

Byra said the infection spreads through manure that pigs swallow as they're feeding.

In Ontario and Manitoba systems have been created to isolate the infected pigs at abattoirs and Byra said he expected Prince Edward Island would create a similar process.

Byra said it's important to swiftly control the spread of the disease.

"We have a pretty good opportunity to eradicate it from our industry, but it's going to take some months and it's going to take some discipline among the producers," he said.

The intelligence network doesn't release the name of the farm or its exact location.

—By Michael Tutton in Halifax

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