In 2009, the country was in the grips of the H1N1 influenza virus, and while associated with pigs, the agricultural community railed against the term ‘swine’ flu. In the wake of the influenza outbreak several countries halted exports of US pork, even though there was no scientific reasoning that the H1N1 flu could be transmitted by consuming pork. It was just another blow to an already struggling pork industry in the US.
Earlier this summer another flu virus began showing up at county fairs in the Midwest that had ties to hogs, with many show pigs being sent home from fairs in an effort to keep the virus from spreading further.
National Pork Producers Council Chief Veterinarian Dr. Liz Wagstrom addressed this latest strain of flu this week at the 8th Annual Food Safety Forum in Raleigh, and explains that its now a very different scenario that what the industry, and country experienced in 2009:
“In 2009, H1N1 was a flu that was first found in people, and rapidly moved from person to person. This year we have something called ‘Variant H3N2’. This variant has been seen in people who have shown pigs or been exposed to pigs largely at fairs. It doesn’t seem to be spreading human to human. The CDC has some recommendations for people coming to fairs that include making sure to keep your hands clean and if you are part of the high risk group, its probably better not to walk through the pig barn.
At this point in time, without any human to human spread, we are hoping that it will be just a few limited cases and we will be able to get ahead of it. The CDC is aware of it because of our joint USDA – CDC Influenza Surveillance, so they already have a vaccine ready to be made if it should start to spread human to human. So we are way ahead of the game than we were in 2009.”
For more from the 8th Annual Food Safety Forum, and from Dr. Liz Wagstrom, Chief Veterinarian for the National Pork Producers Council, visit our list of Ag News. Also, check out this month’s feature; Celebrating Women in Agriculture.