Producers concerned over ‘swine’ flu
Although a common misconception may be that humans might contact “swine flu” from pigs or consuming pork, the Center for Disease Control and Prevention and the National Pork Board say the virus did not generate from hogs, but humans could pass it along to hogs.
As a result, area Iowa State University Extension field specialists have been fielding calls from producers seeking ways to strengthen biosecurity measures to protect their herds.
The disease has created a double-whammy for producers who need to keep their pigs safe from infected humans, while watching the markets fall in fear that consumers may not eat pork, because of the name.
Although “none of the U.S. herd has the virus,” said David Stender, Extension swine specialist, based in Cherokee County, “they (producers) are talking about it.” Stender said that the H1N1 virus, the current viral strain that is blamed for one death in the U.S. as of Wednesday morning, and has lead to seven deaths around the world, has the capability of infecting pigs.
The World Health Organization Wednesday morning said reports of over 150 deaths in Mexico due to the virus was inaccurate and changed the number to seven worldwide.
The Associated Press reported that Egypt ordered the culling of all pigs within its borders, estimating about 300,000 animals, as a precautionary measure.
According to reports as of Tuesday evening there have been 68 confirmed U.S. cases in eight states. None of them in Iowa.
“The assumption is that the H1 can get into the pigs,” Stender said. Hogs are susceptible to the H1 part of the virus, Stender noted, and although it can make swine sick, it is mostly found in, and carried by birds, an avian flu strain.
“Don’t go to work at a hog farm if you are sick,” Stender said, stating what should be obvious to those who work around livestock. “It’s the same for all (work places and illnesses). Don’t go to work if you are sick.”
A memo posted this week by the Center for Disease Control said that because hogs have nothing to do with the genesis of the outbreak the virus is misnamed. “It should be called the North American flu,” the CDC memo said.
Dennis Dewitt, Extension swine specialist, based in Dickinson County, said all Extension specialists have been making biosecurity measures available to producers. The measures are recommendations from the CDC and the National Pork Board.
The NPC recommends the following steps to increase biosecurity for swine herds to prevent the H1N1 virus that is currently infecting humans from getting into regional herds.
- Enforce strict sick leave. Prevent workers who exhibit flu-like from entering swine facilities for at least seven days.
- Implement biosecurity limits. Consider preventing the entry of any worker who has travelled internationally, and particularly to Mexico, into your operation.
- Watch ventilation. Be certain that ventilation systems in production facilities do not e-circulation air inside animal housing facilities.
- Enforce basic hygiene. Workers should shower and change into farm-specific clothes and shoes before entering swine facilities. If this is not possible, enforce at least the use of farm shoes and hand and arm washing before contact with pigs.
Contact Larry Kershner at firstname.lastname@example.org.
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