With flu season nearing, now is the time for an ounce of prevention. The National Pork Board is reminding producers, farm personnel, veterinarians and others who have contact with pigs to get a flu shot. The flu season starts as early as October and can run through May.

"Producers and swine farm workers can reduce the risk of getting sick and bringing the flu to the farm or workplace by getting vaccinated,” says Liz Wagstrom, assistant vice president of science and technology for the NPB. The flu shot is available as an injection or in a nasal spray.

"The flu shot contains two type A viruses and one type B,” says Wagstrom.  “The A viruses may spread between people and pigs. Humans will develop antibodies that protect them against infection with the flu virus two weeks after taking the flu shot,” she added.
Wagstrom recommends other practices to reduce the spread of infection among workers and pigs with human influenza viruses.  Among them is encouraging 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 people may remain 'contagious' as long as the symptoms last, from three to seven days," she said.

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 since migrating fowl and other wildlife may spread different viruses.
"The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention recommends that pregnant women not get the nasal vaccine," Wagstrom said. "The CDC has great information about the flu shot, who should get it and who should not. I'd recommend that everybody visit their Web site for more information.” 

Read the NPB’s fact sheet on influenza, titled "Influenza: Pigs, People and Public Health."
Source: The National Pork Board