With human cases of H3N2 influenza virus, reportedly contracted from pigs at fairs this summer, pork producers are turning their attention to prevention measures among employees and in their herds.
Investigations into H3N2v cases indicate that the main risk factor for infection is prolonged exposure to pigs, mostly in fair settings, according to the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC). Associated illness so far has been mostly mild with symptoms similar to seasonal flu and most cases have occurred in children who have little immunity against this virus.
Influenza (flu) viruses have circulated in humans and animals for centuries, according to Jennifer Koeman, DVM, director of producer and public health, National Pork Board (NPB). “These viruses are able to mix with other influenza viruses and create new viruses changing how well they spread as well as their ability to cause disease. Some will infect only one type of animal, while others have more ability to move between species and may cause different signs of illness in different animals.”
“These H3N2v influenza cases have exhibited the same sort of symptoms as seasonal flu with no sustained human-to-human transmission,” Koeman adds.
With influenza season ramping up, make sure that you take the normal precautions against infection since these viruses can move from pigs to people and from people to pigs, Koeman says. “Influenza viruses can move between pigs and people so it is important for all producers, swine workers, and their families to receive the seasonal influenza vaccination as soon as it is available.”
According to the CDC, all people over the age of six months of age should be immunized for influenza each year. “Although this season’s flu vaccine will not protect against H3N2v, it will protect against seasonal influenza viruses expected to circulate this season and will reduce the risk of transmitting flu viruses to the herd,” Koeman says.
In addition, Koeman recommends swine operations maintain a sick leave policy so if employees develop influenza symptoms they are able to stay at home to reduce the risk of transmitting flu viruses to the herd. “We recommend that employees remain at home for seven days, or for 24 hours after fever has abated in the absence of fever-reducing medications.”
Meanwhile, pork producers continue to show their support of USDA’s Swine Influenza Virus (SIV) Surveillance Program. It allows for sharing of valuable information with public health partners as well as animal health partners while demonstrating the pork industry’s proactive leadership in protecting swine health and human health.
Extensive information is available online from NPB on exhibiting swine at fairs, vaccination recommendations, fact sheets as well as biosecurity protocols on preventing influenza.