Infected Alberta pig farm using makeshift immunization program to fight deadly virus

Feeding pigs infected feces aims to halt Alberta's first porcine epidemic diarrhea outbreak


Wallis Snowdon. CBC News (Canada)

Jan 10, 2019


Feeding sows the feces of infected piglets a makeshift form of immunization is one of the few ways producers can slow the spread of a deadly pork virus detected in Alberta for the first time this week.


There is no vaccine to inoculate against the porcine epidemic diarrhea virus, a disease that has killed millions of piglets around the world.


"There is no commercial vaccine that is effective," said Frank Marshall, a Camrose-based veterinarian specializing in swine health and a sessional instructor in veterinary medicine at the University of Calgary.


"Sadly, our only method to gain that immunity is to expose the animals to the baby pig feces."


The porcine epidemic diarrhea virus, known as PED, has been found at a 400-head hog operation in the province the first-ever reported case of PED in Alberta.


PED infects the cells lining the small intestine of a pig. It is generally considered fatal, especially among younger animals which haven't developed the reserves to fight off the disease and absorb nutrients.


For newborn piglets, that is, those less than a week old, mortality rates are up to 100 per cent.


Symptoms in sows include loose feces or not eating, while piglets will be dehydrated and have watery diarrhea.


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