The National Pork Board and Pork Checkoff recommends that all swine farm workers get a flu shot in October or November in anticipation of this flu season. The flu season can start as early as October and last through May.
“Producers and swine farm workers can reduce the risk of getting sick and bringing the flu to the farm by getting a flu shot,” says Dr. Liz Wagstrom, assistant vice president of science and technology for NPB. “The flu shot contains two type-A viruses that we want to prevent from spreading between people and pigs,” Wagstrom said.
The flu shot is available as an injection or in a nasal spray. “The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention recommends that pregnant women not get the nasal vaccine,” Wagstrom added. Wagstrom recommends other practices to reduce infection of pigs with human influenza viruses. Among them is modifying sick-leave policies that encourage workers to stay away from the farm if they are suffering from acute respiratory infections. “Virus shedding is at its peak when the clinical illness is most severe but can last as long as the symptoms do and that is from three to seven days.”
Good building ventilation and good hygiene also will reduce transmission of the 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.” Wagstrom also suggested chlorinating the water used on the farm, especially if it is surface or pond water.
The Pork Checkoff’s fact sheet on influenza titled “Influenza: Pigs, People and Public Health” is available online at http://www.pork.org/PorkScience/PublicHealth/Factsheets.aspx. For more flu information, see the CDC’s Web site at www.cdc.gov.