The National Pork Board recommends that all pork production employees get a flu shot in anticipation of the flu season, which runs from October to May.

Liz Wagstrom, assistant vice president of science and technology for NPB, says, “Producers and employees can reduce the risk of bringing the flu to the farm and infecting the pigs they care for by getting a flu shot.” 

Influenza viruses can be classified as type A, B and C.  Type A influenza can be passed between people and pigs.   “The flu shot contains two type A viruses that we want to prevent from spreading,” says Wagstrom. “The vaccine also has a type B virus in the mix, but this type of virus is not of concern to the health of our pigs.  Humans will develop antibodies against the flu virus two weeks after taking the flu shot.”  

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,” she notes.

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, treating the water if there is a chance it can be contaminated with bird fecal material, protecting feed from birds and enforcing biosecurity practices such as the use of farm-specific clothing and footwear,” adds Wagstrom.

For more information, a fact sheet titled “Influenza: Pigs, People and Public Health” is available from the Pork Checkoff.  The fact sheet is available by calling 800-456-PORK and on the porkboard.org Web site under Hot Topics and Producer/Public Health.

National Pork Board