The U.S. Department of Agriculture (USDA) is testing some Minnesota pigs to confirm whether they are infected with the H1N1 virus (swine flu).
If so, this would be the first U.S. case of H1N1 in a swine population.
According to Agriculture Secretary Tom Vilsack, pigs at the Minnesota State Fair were routinely tested between Aug. 26 and Sept. 1. Preliminary results revealed some of the pigs were infected, even though they showed no signs of illness and seemed healthy.
“Like people, swine routinely get sick or contract influenza viruses,” Vilsack says. “We currently are testing the Minnesota samples to determine if this is 2009 pandemic H1N1 influenza. We are working in partnership with CDC, as well as our animal and public health colleagues, and will continue to provide information as it becomes available.”
The results may be in within the next few days.
The pork industry is already freaking out about the PR implications, and Vilsack is working with them to remind Americans that “they cannot get this flu from eating pork or pork products.”
While there was an outbreak of H1N1 in a group of children housed in a state-fair dormitory—at the same time samples were collected from the pigs—the USDA says there’s no direct link. The children, however, may have infected the pigs.
Meanwhile, the USDA is reminding pig producers to heed hygiene standards to prevent the introduction and spread of flu. The agency also urges them to participate in its swine influenza virus surveillance program, which monitors pig populations in an effort to detect illness and develop new vaccines.