What Pork Producers and Workers Need To Know About Influenza (Flu) In Pigs and People

What Pork Producers and Workers Need To Know About Influenza (Flu) In Pigs and P

As a pork producer you may have questions about the difference between the 2009 H1N1 influenza virus and common swine influenza viruses. This document addresses what is known about the swine influenza viruses that have been found in pigs and what workers can do to avoid getting sick.

Introduction
In April 2009, an outbreak of 2009 H1N1 influenza virus infections were detected in people in North America and then spread around the world. In October 2009, the first case of 2009 H1N1 influenza virus in a pig in the United States was confirmed. Pig infections with 2009 H1N1 flu have been found in other countries, including Canada, Australia and Argentina.

Swine Influenza Virus Infections In Pigs
Swine influenza is a respiratory disease of pigs caused by type A influenza viruses. Pigs most commonly get infected with flu viruses from other pigs (swine flu), but also can get infected with flu viruses from birds (avian flu), and from people (human flu). This cross-species spread of flu viruses can lead to new types of flu viruses. At this time, there are three main influenza subtypes that circulate in U.S. pigs: H1N1, H1N2 and H3N2.

Flu outbreaks in pigs are common and can result in high rates of illness but few deaths in herds.

Signs of swine flu in pigs include:

The number of subtypes and strains of flu virus circulating among U.S. herds has complicated vaccine programs for swine and resulted in increased economic loss from illness in pigs.

Questions & Answers about Swine Flu in Pigs

Q. How does swine flu spread among pigs?
A. Swine flu viruses are thought to spread mostly through close contact among pigs and possibly from contaminated objects moving between infected and uninfected pigs.

Q. Can swine flu infections be prevented in pigs?
A. It may be possible to lessen the risk of infections in pigs by following these management strategies:

Q. What about flu vaccines for pigs?
A. Flu vaccines for pigs can help, but are not 100% effective. Importantly, current vaccines may not be effective in young pigs due to maternal antibody interference. Protection of young pigs is achieved by vaccinating sows; however, those maternal antibodies are not fully protective for the young pig and fade by the time they are 10-13 weeks of age. Producers may vaccinate their animals after maternal antibodies fade.

Q. How can veterinarians help?
A. Producers and their veterinarians should work together to develop management strategies to reduce the spread of flu among herds and to prevent the introduction and spread of flu viruses between pigs, people, and birds.

Q. Can people catch swine flu from eating pork?
A. No, swine influenza is not spread by food so a person cannot get the flu by eating pork, pork products or other foods.

Questions & Answers about 2009 H1N1 Flu in People

Q. What is “2009 H1N1 flu?”
A. 2009 H1N1 flu virus is a new influenza virus causing illness in people. This new virus was first detected in people in the United States in April 2009 This virus is spreading from person-to-person, in much the same way that regular seasonal influenza viruses spread.

Q. Why is this 2009 H1N1 virus sometimes called “swine flu?”
A. This virus was originally called swine flu because laboratory testing showed that many of the genes in this new virus were very similar to influenza viruses that normally occur in pigs in North America. But further study has shown that this new virus is very different from what normally circulates in North American pigs. It has two genes from flu viruses that normally circulate in pigs in Europe and Asia as well as genes from birds and people. Scientists call this a “quadruple reassortant” virus.

Q. Can 2009 H1N1 virus infect pigs?
A. Yes. This influenza virus can infect pigs, as do many other human flu and bird flu viruses. In October 2009, the first case of 2009 H1N1 influenza virus in a pig in the United States was confirmed. Pig infections with 2009 H1N1 flu have been found in other countries, including Canada, Australia and Argentina. USDA and other researchers are conducting further pig studies with the virus and it appears that this virus causes a similar disease to other well known circulating swine influenza viruses.

Q. Can pigs be vaccinated against 2009 H1N1 virus?
A. As of October 7, 2009 commercial vaccine is not available. However, efforts are underway to develop a vaccine for swine. As a first step, USDA, using material provided by CDC, has made a 2009 H1N1 master seed virus isolate available to licensed veterinary biologics manufacturers for development of a commercial 2009 H1N1 swine influenza vaccine.

Flu Can Spread from Pigs to People and from People to Pigs

What you can do to prevent the spread of flu virus from pigs to people and people to pigs

First, wash your hands frequently with soap and running water after exposure to animals and avoid contact with animals that look ill. If you or your family becomes sick with flu-like symptoms, take the following steps

Most flu cases in humans are caused by human flu viruses, not swine flu viruses. However, if you are infected with a swine flu virus, the health department will want to talk with you about your illness and make sure that other people you live and work with are not sick with swine flu. Flu medications are available to treat swine flu illness in people. These medicines should be started in the first two days of being ill to be most effective.

If swine flu is diagnosed in humans public health and animal health officials may conduct a follow-up investigation which may include traceback and testing of swine for the virus.

CDC’s interim guidance for workers who are employed at commercial swine farms is available at http://www.cdc.gov/h1n1flu/guidelines_commerical_settings_with_pigs.htm and the National Pork Board ‘Biosecurity recommendations for producers” is available at http://www.pork.org/

It is important to know if swine flu viruses are spreading among people so that cases in other people can be prevented.

For more information, visit:
http://www.cdc.gov/flu/ or http://www.cdc.gov/h1n1flu/ or http://www.flu.gov http://www.aphis.usda.gov/newsroom/hot_issues/h1n1/ http://www.avma.org/public_health/influenza/default.asp

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