October or November is the time to roll up your sleeves and get that shot in the arm -- flu shot that is. The season can start as early as October and last through May, and you need to try to head off the virus. While you benefit from the vaccination, so can the pigs. It prevents you from dragging the virus into the buildings to them.

“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 Liz Wagstrom, DVM, assistant vice president of science and technology for the National Pork Board.  “The flu shot contains two type-A viruses that we want to prevent from spreading between people and pigs. The vaccine also has a type-B virus in the mix, but this 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.”

The flu shot is available as an injection or in a nasal spray.  “The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, or CDC, recommends that pregnant women not get the nasal vaccine,” Wagstrom points out.   

She recommends other practices to reduce infection of pigs with human influenza viruses.  For example, modify your sick-leave policies to encourage workers to stay away from the farm if they're 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's from three to seven days.”

Proper building ventilation and hygiene also will reduce flu virus transmission.  To prevent pigs and humans from other species’ influenza viruses, bird-proof your buildings, protect feed from birds and enforce biosecurity practices such as using farm-specific clothing and footwear. Wagstrom also suggests chlorinating the water used on the farm, especially if it's surface or pond water.

“CDC has great information about the flu shot, who should get it and who should not. Everyone should visit its Web site for more information,” Wagstrom adds. You'll find it at www.cdc.gov.

NPB’s own fact sheet on influenza titled “Influenza: Pigs, People and Public Health” is available online. 

Source: National Pork Board