Purdue Expert: Swine Flu Has No Connection To Today's Pigs
No pigs have been found with swine flu (now known as H1N1) – only humans. But pork producers need to take precautionary measures to protect their herds from being infected with any flu virus, says Sandy Amass, a Purdue University veterinarian.
"Flu viruses are named after the first animal they were found in," says Amass. "This particular strain just happened to be discovered in pigs in 1930, and this is the only reason it's called swine flu. We don't even know if the virus found in humans will infect pigs."
At this point, the new H1N1 virus has not been found in the U.S. pig population, says Amass, who specializes in swine production medicine. Amass has three recommendations for pork producers:
Do not permit people, including employees who have the flu or flulike symptoms, in or around barns.
Do not allow any visitors to the farm, especially international visitors who have had contact with other livestock.
If pigs show flu symptoms – coughing, runny nose, fever and a reduction in feed intake – call a veterinarian and have them tested.
"It's important to make sure your biosecurity procedures are being followed," Amass said. "If you have any concern, work with your vet because they know your operation best."
For more information about swine flu and biosecurity measures, contact Amass at 765-494-8052, [email protected].
Consumers can eat pork with no concern for swine flu
Shoppers should not shy away from pork products over concerns regarding reports of swine flu across the country, say Purdue University experts.
Purdue Extension Nutrition Specialist Melissa Maulding says the flu virus is not a food-borne pathogen, and there is no risk to the food supply.
"The flu is a virus that is transmitted through interaction with people," she says. "The biggest defense against catching the flu is to wash your hands."
Paul Ebner, assistant professor of animal sciences, says that while the current strain infecting humans is an H1N1 virus that is normally associated with pigs, it is not a classic swine virus.
"It has changed, obviously in a dramatic way that has allowed it to more easily infect humans," he says. "Previously there were a few occurrences of humans catching the flu from pigs, but this strain is different."
The Indiana Board of Animal Health confirms that this particular flu strain that is infecting humans has not been identified in Indiana's swine population.
Hog futures fell sharply Monday (April 27) after reports that confirmed cases of swine flu in humans increased over the weekend in the U.S. U.S. grains and oilseed prices also fell over concerns that any reduction in pork consumption would result in less demand for feed products to produce that pork.
Purdue Extension Economist Chris Hurt says the continuing economic impact on agriculture will depend on how the flu spreads through the human population and how the world responds.
"Swine flu will likely be an ongoing story over the next few weeks," he says. "We'll be watching to see whether other countries restrict pork imports, if the worlds' consumers reduce pork consumption and if the disease is significant enough to further jeopardize already fragile world economic growth."