Influenza activity continues to increase in the United States and most of the country is now experiencing high levels of influenza-like-illness (ILI), according to the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention’s (CDC) FluView report. CDC continues to recommend influenza vaccination for people who have not yet been vaccinated this season and antiviral treatment as early as possible for people who get sick and are at high risl of flu complications.
“While we can’t say for certain how severe this season will be, we can say that a lot of people are getting sick with influenza and we are getting reports of severe illness and hospitalizations,” according to Joe Bresee, chief of the Epidemiology CDC’s Influenza Division.
This flu season, 18 children have died from influenza-associated illness, according to Fox News. High levels of ILI have been reported in 20 states causing treatment delays in hospital emergency rooms.
One factor that may indicate increased severity this season is that the predominant circulating type of influenza virus is influenza A (H3N2) viruses, which account for about 76 percent of the viruses reported. Bresee explains “typically ‘H3N2 seasons’ have been more severe, with higher numbers of hospitalizations and deaths, but we will have to see how the season plays out.”
Even though the flu season is now in full force, the Pork Checkoff still recommends producers, farm personnel and others who have contact with pigs get the seasonal flu vaccination as soon as possible to help protect human and pig health.
"It's never too late to get a flu vaccination that can help reduce the risk of getting sick and bringing the flu to the farm or workplace," said Jennifer Koeman, DVM, director of producer and public health for the National Pork Board (NPB). "It also demonstrates the industry's 'We Care' ethical principle is in action to help protect employees, animals and public health."
According to the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services, all people over the age of 6 months of age should be immunized for influenza each year.
"People may remain contagious for up to five to seven days after getting sick," Koeman said. "That's why it's crucial that employers have a sick-leave policy that encourages those experiencing symptoms of influenza-like illness to stay home."
At the farm level, good building ventilation and good hygiene can help reduce transmission of flu viruses.
"To prevent pigs and humans from other species' influenza viruses, producers also should look at bird-proofing their buildings, protecting feed from birds and enforcing biosecurity practices, such as the use of farm-specific clothing and footwear," Koeman said.
According to Lisa Becton, DVM, NPB director of swine health information and research, "It's very important to monitor your herd's health daily and contact your herd veterinarian if influenza is suspected. Rapid detection of influenza can help producers and their veterinarians implement appropriate strategies to better manage sick pigs."