Special to the Journal Argus
The Middlesex County pig farm where Canada’s first case of Porcine Epidemic Diarrhea (PED) shocked pork producers is east of London, an informed source says. That places the outbreak in Thames Centre, a huge township that stretches from Highway 7 on the edge of St. Marys to the Middlesex-Elgin border south of Dorchester.
The source, who insisted on anonymity, told the Journal Argus he is obliged to abide by a directive that an exact location is not to be publicized out of concern for privacy of the affected farmer, potential public interference with the ongoing investigation, and reducing the risk of further spreading the PED virus.
Central to that probe is determination of how the virus arrived at that farm. Information now is emerging that it had been detected in areas like loading docks in Ontario and Quebec after plenty of publicity that it has been ravaging herds of piglets for nearly a year in the United States.
On Tuesday, Jan. 28, a news release from the Ontario Ministry of Agriculture announced that the governments of Canada and Ontario are helping the pork industry step up measures to contain the spread of the virus. Ontario is providing $2 million to help the Ontario Pork lobbying and marketing organization "support industry-wide investments to improve biosecurity measures at critical points across the province, such as assembly yards and truck washing stations."
The news release also announced the creation of a joint federal/provincial "PED biosecurity program" under the federal government's Growing Forward 2 funding initiative, "to help producers, abattoirs, truckers, assembly facilities, and rendering service providers in the pork industry invest in additional biosecurity measures to limit the spread of PED."
This initiative is in addition to the existing Growing Forward 2 funding assistance program. Ontario will administer the fund, and applications will be accepted until March 13, 2014.
On Monday, Jan. 27, the provincial Ministry announced a second Ontario case of PED has been confirmed, while a third farm is under investigation. Both new farms are in Chatham-Kent.
Regarding the original Thames Centre outbreak, Ontario Chief Veterinarian Greg Douglas said in an earlier statement that the farmer had been following strict bio-security measures to protect his herd, and has been working with a veterinarian.
“There was no negligence on the part of the producer or the veterinarian,” Dr. Douglas told reporters.
“Scary, too close to home,” said one major Middlesex-Lambton pork producer. Her comments were echoed by Parkhill area farmer James Willemse, who told the Journal Argus that when he heard of the outbreak in his county, “My heart skipped a beat.”
Willemse, president of the Middlesex Pork Producers’ Association, said: “All Ontario farmers’ eyes are going to be open wide for the next week or two. And if we see anything unusual at the barn, it’s going right to the vet lab in Guelph to get tested.”
Various spokespersons, including Ontario Premier Kathleen Wynne (who doubles as provincial Agriculture minister) and federal minister Gerry Ritz, have hastened to issue assurances that “pork remains a safe choice for consumers to eat.”
Following Tuesday's announcement of additional bio-security funding, Premier Wynne added, "Ontario pork is safe to eat and a vital part of our agriculture sector. That’s why we’re taking coordinated, comprehensive action against this virus. We’re here to help this proud Ontario industry — especially those already affected by PED."
The virus spreads through manure rather than through the air and has no ill effects on humans or other types of animals.
Willemse’s most recently updated records list 111 Middlesex pig farms which marketed 410,000 finished hogs in 2012.