The American Association of Swine Veterinarians will release a document with recommendations on the Pandemic H1N1 disease and the risk it poses to the U.S. swine herd, according to Rodney “Butch” Baker, DVM, AASV president. The document will be available to veterinarians and producers by early August.
“We hope it will add balance to other position papers on the Novel H1N1 virus which are also expected soon,” adds Baker. A document is expected from USDA's Animal and Plant Health Inspection Service which will provide recommendations to State animal health officials on management of Novel H1N1 disease in relation to swine farms.
“We think it's important that our human health counterparts, such as the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention and State and local health departments understand our position and the science on this issue,” says Baker. Baker believes pork producers should receive some priority for receiving the human vaccine when it becomes available.
The Pandemic H1N1 virus has never been found in U.S. pigs. “Based on current research with the virus, it has been determined that the virus is infectious in pigs and it will likely spread if it does enter our pig population,” Baker reports. Further, it has been determined that pork from influenza-recovered pigs is completely safe. “We are certain that swine influenza viruses will not enter the food chain from pigs that have recovered from this virus,” he continues.
However, there is no reason to assume that the H1N1 virus will get into the U.S. pig population.
“We protect our pigs from disease here in the U.S. better than anyone, anywhere in the world,” says Baker. “Our biosecurity is outstanding and we also produce the safest pork in the world.”
One of the big problems with Pandemic H1N1 influenza, is that people may carry and spread the virus for 24 hours before they begin feeling symptoms of illness. “Plus, for the most part, this has been a very mild flu in people,” says Baker. “So, it's very difficult to prevent exposing pigs to the disease."
If the virus gets onto a swine farm, it means it was brought there by people, as the Pandemic (novel) H1N1 is currently a human virus.
“Quarantine of a farm would not be necessary or helpful,” says Baker. “From a public health standpoint, there would be no value in quarantining a pig farm in the case that pandemic H1N1 is discovered in pigs based on what we know today.”
All pigs harvested in the U.S. must be healthy at the time of slaughter. All pigs are inspected by government Food Safety Inspection Service veterinarians to assure this. The virus will not be present in the meat.