The National Pork Board is recommending that all hog farm workers get flu shots for the flu season, which runs from October to May.

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

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,” she says. “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 two weeks after taking the flu shot.”

The following practices also help reduce infection of pigs with human influenza viruses:

  • Modifying sick leave policies to 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,” says Wagstrom.
  • Maintaining good building ventilation and hygiene to reduce the spread of the flu virus. “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.”

A fact sheet from the National Pork Board, “Influenza: Pigs, People and Public Health,” is available by calling 800-456-7675, or logging onto www.pork.org. and clicking on Hot Topics and Producer/Public Health.