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As we reported on Saturday, pigs on display at the Minnesota State Fair were undergoing confirmatory tests to determine whether they were infected with H1N1 (swine flu).
Earlier today, Agriculture Secretary Tom Vilsack revealed the 2009 pandemic H1N1 influenza virus was present in samples collected at the fair. Additional samples are being tested.
At press time, the USDA believes the Minnesota case “does not suggest infection of commercial herds because show pigs and commercially raised pigs are in separate segments of the swine industry that do not typically interchange personnel or animal stock.”
Vilsack once again is reassuring Americans that eating pork does not pose any infection dangers.
We’ll continue to monitor the story for you.Read More:This Little Piggy Has Swine Flu
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.Read More:Swine Flu a Possibility in Minnesota Pigs
Turkeys at two farms in Chile recently tested positive for the same strain of H1N1 (swine flu) that has been infecting humans, according to the Food and Agriculture Organization of the United Nations (FAO).
Experts are concerned that other poultry farms around the world could be affected.
FAO Chief Veterinary Officer Juan Lubroth, DVM, PhD, says the Chilean incidents pose no immediate threat to humans and that veterinarian-inspected turkey remains safe.
“The reaction of the Chilean authorities to the discovery of H1N1 in turkeys—namely, prompt reporting to international organizations, establishing a temporary quarantine and the decision to allow infected birds to recover rather than culling them—is scientifically sound,” he says. “Once the sick birds have recovered, safe production and processing can continue. They do not pose a threat to the food chain.”
H1N1 is a mixture of human, pig and bird genes that has proved to be very contagious, but no more deadly than common seasonal flu viruses. It could, theoretically, become more virulent if it combines with H5N1 (avian flu)—more deadly, but harder to contract.
“Chile does not have H5N1 flu,” Dr. Lubroth explains. “In Southeast Asia, where there is a lot of the virus circulating in poultry, the introduction of H1N1 in these populations would be of a greater concern.”
Hygienic and safe farming practices must be followed, he says. This includes protecting farm workers who care for, or work near, sick animals.
“We must monitor the situation in animals more closely and strengthen veterinary services in poor and in-transition countries,” Dr. Lubroth says. “They need adequate diagnostic capability and competent and suitably resourced field teams that can respond to emergency needs.”
Photo courtesy of the CDCRead More:Turkey Trouble