Many domestic species, including some of our agricultural animals (i.e., pigs, horses, birds), and even ferrets, could become infected with influenza viruses, including the current H1N1 virus circulating in humans. This new strain differs from previously identified human viruses and consists of a mixture of genetic material from human, swine, and avian influenza viruses.
Can I get this new strain of virus from eating pork or pork products?
No. H1N1 is a respiratory disease and pork is safe to eat. There has been no known transmission of the H1N1 virus through the consumption or handling of pork or pork products. Pork should always be properly handled and cooked to an internal temperature of at least 160 degrees Fahrenheit to kill food-borne pathogens that might be present.
For more information about safe food handling visit www.befoodsafe.gov.
Have any swine in the U.S. been infected with the H1N1 flu virus?
Swine herds are being monitored and there is no evidence that this strain of the virus has infected any swine herds in the United States. On October 19, 2009 - Agriculture Secretary Tom Vilsack announced that USDA's National Veterinary Services Laboratories (NVSL) has confirmed the presence of 2009 pandemic H1N1 influenza virus in a pig sample collected at the Minnesota State Fair. The infection of the fair pig does not suggest infection of commercial herds. The main reason is that show pigs and commercially raised pigs are in separate segments of the swine industry that do not typically interchange personnel or animal stock. Good hygiene, biosecurity and other management practices are essential to maintain swine herds free of H1N1.
Can humans transmit the H1N1 virus to swine or vice versa?
The United States Department of Agriculture's (U.S.D.A.) National Animal Disease Center in Ames, Iowa is conducting studies to determine how infective this virus is in swine. From the information available from this outbreak and from scientific studies, we can assume that the disease can pass from human to pig and from pig to pig. However, the specific conditions required for the virus to infect other people or animals are still being determined.
Can you get H1N1 from being around or touching swine?
Possibly. An infected human may be able to pass the virus to pigs. However, the most likely way for a person to become infected with the H1N1 virus is through contact with a person who has the influenza. Influenza spreads from person-to-person mainly through coughing or sneezing by infected people.
They found H1N1 in pigs in Canada, are pigs passing the disease to people?
No, the Canadian Food Inspection Agency (C.F.I.A.) announced the occurrence of H1N1 virus in a swine herd in Alberta. The C.F.I.A. believes that the swine became ill after exposure to a Canadian farm worker, exhibiting flu-like symptoms, who had recently returned from Mexico.
What are the clinical signs of H1N1 in swine?
Signs of influenza in swine are similar to those in humans, sudden onset of fever, depression, coughing, sneezing, runny nose, breathing difficulties, watery red eyes, and lack of appetite. If your pigs are showing any of these signs, call your veterinarian.
Is there anyone monitoring swine for H1N1?
Veterinarians are on constant alert for the signs of influenza in swine. Private practitioners, state and federal veterinarians and animal health officials are monitoring swine herds for signs of disease. U.S.D.A. has put U.S. pork producers on a high alert for safety. To date, the U.S. swine herd is free of H1N1 influenza.
How can I protect my swine herd?
- Practice, enforce and intensify your biosecurity measures.
- Avoid new introductions to the herd.
- Buy animals from trusted sources.
- Avoid using farm equipment from other farms and disinfect it prior to use if borrowed equipment is necessary. Disinfect equipment prior to returning it back to the loaning farm.
- Only healthy essential workers should be allowed to enter the farm. Workers should disinfect shoes, clothes and hands before entering the farm.
- Train workers to recognize influenza signs in swine and to report sick animals promptly.
For more information on biosecurity measures, visit: www.nj.gov/agriculture/divisions/ah/news/biosecurity.html
Are pet pigs susceptible to H1N1 flu? Can I get infected from my pet pig?
Yes, pet pigs are susceptible to H1N1; however it is not likely that you will get it from your pet pig. On the contrary, it is more likely that your pet pig will get it from you.
What can I do to protect both myself and my pet pig?
Practice biosecurity measures and proper hygiene, including washing your hands frequently, especially after handling your pet pig. Clean and disinfect shoes and clothes if you have been around other animals or people with influenza symptoms before touching your pet pig. If you become ill, do not have contact with your pig for at least 24 hours after the fever (temperature above 100 degrees Fahrenheit) is gone, without the use of fever-reducing medication.
What measures then can I take to prevent the spread of H1N1?
- Vaccination – The human H1N1 vaccine is expected to be available in the fall of 2009. Although annual seasonal influenza vaccines do not confer immunity to H1N1, annual influenza vaccination is strongly encouraged.
- Practice good hygiene:
- Cover your nose and mouth when you cough or sneeze. Use a tissue when possible and throw the tissue in the trash after you use it.
- Wash your hands with soap and water, especially after you cough or sneeze.
- Avoid touching your eyes, nose or mouth.
- Avoid close contact (within 6 feet) with sick people.
- Stay home if you are sick for at least 24 hours after the fever (temperature above 100 degrees Fahrenheit) is gone, without the use of fever-reducing medication. This is to keep you from infecting others and spreading the virus.
- Stay informed. Health officials will provide additional information as it becomes available.