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Manitoba alert for hog virus

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THE Manitoba hog industry is taking special precautions to avoid contamination against a nasty virus that is wreaking havoc in pig herds in 15 states in the U.S.

Andrew Dickson, executive director of the Manitoba Pork Council, said his members are being urged to follow bio-security measures to prevent the spread of the porcine epidemic diarrhea virus, also known as PED.

"We have not got it, and our concern is that we do not get it," he said. "It's a very bad disease."

Truck drivers are being urged to wash their trucks thoroughly when coming in from the U.S., and Manitoba hog-barn operators are following special protocols so there is less ability for the disease to be transmitted to the local pig population.

"The Canadian herd is naive. That means there is no resistance," Dickson said. "And this virus spreads rapidly."

Dr. Nick Striegel, assistant state veterinarian for the Colorado Department of Agriculture, said Wednesday the porcine epidemic diarrhea virus was thought to exist only in Europe and China, but Colorado and 14 other states began reporting it in April and officials confirmed its presence in May. The virus causes severe diarrhea, vomiting and severe dehydration in pigs and can be fatal.

"It has been devastating for those producers where it has been diagnosed. It affects nursing pigs, and in some places, there has been 100 per cent mortality," Streigel said.

He said the disease is not harmful to humans and there is no evidence it affects pork products.

He said reporting outbreaks to federal officials isn't required, so the extent of the spread is difficult to determine, but in Colorado, at least two large production facilities have seen outbreaks.

The virus has been confirmed in about 200 hog facilities in 14 other states, including Arkansas, Iowa, Illinois, Indiana, Kansas, Michigan, Minnesota, Missouri, North Carolina, New York, Ohio, Oklahoma, Pennsylvania, and South Dakota, according to the American Association of Swine Veterinarians.

This comes on the heels of legal action the Canadian Pork Council and seven other American and Canadian meat and livestock groups have taken against the U.S. Department of Agriculture in federal court in Washington, D.C., to block implementation of new country-of-origin labelling (COOL) requirements.

The rules, approved in May by the USDA's Agriculture Marketing Service, require meat labels to detail where animals grown for meat were born, raised and slaughtered. The USDA also decided to prohibit processors from mixing meat from animals that come from different countries.

The American Meat Institute, a trade group for packers, processors and suppliers, and the seven other groups say segregating the meat is not part of the law Congress passed. They say it would be costly and offers no food-safety or public health benefit.

The USDA did not immediately comment on the lawsuit filed Monday.

-- with files from The Associated Press

martin.cash@freepress.mb.ca

Republished from the Winnipeg Free Press print edition July 11, 2013 A16

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