The Agriculture Department’s National Veterinary Services Laboratory (NVSL), Ames, IA, has confirmed the presence of 2009 pandemic H1N1 influenza virus in a pig sample collected at the Minnesota State Fair submitted by the University of Minnesota. Additional samples are being tested.

The sample is the first positive diagnosis of the novel flu virus in U.S. swine. The virus has circulated widely in the human population worldwide since it was first discovered in April 2009.

“We have fully engaged our trading partners to remind them that several international organizations, including the World Organization for Animal Health, have advised that there is no scientific basis to restrict trade in pork and pork products,” says Vilsack. “People cannot get this flu from eating pork or pork products. Pork is safe to eat.”

The pigs that were tested were reported healthy and showed no signs of influenza-like illness. The samples were collected for a joint research project conducted at the University of Iowa and University of Minnesota. The two-year-old project, funded by the CDC, was designed to document influenza viruses where humans and pigs interact such as state fairs. A number of children housed in a dormitory during the fair became ill with flu-like symptoms at the time the samples were collected, but there is no known link between the pigs and the children.

The infection of the fair pig does not mean that commercial herds are infected because show pigs and commercial pigs are separate segments of the industry and typically raised separately, according to USDA.

The American Association of Swine Veterinarians (AASV) issued these recommendations:

  1. Hog farm workers should be vaccinated against the seasonal influenza viruses and receive priority for vaccination against any novel influenza viruses.
  2. Producers should follow good on-farm biosecurity practices.
  3. Hog farms should continue current swine influenza vaccinations to control clinical signs of disease in pigs and use vaccines against the novel H1N1 flu if shown to reduce viral shedding and the risk of transmission to farm staff.
  4. The pork industry should support USDA’s swine influenza surveillance program for detection of novel flu viruses including the pandemic H1N1 virus. The AASV is encouraging its members to submit samples from pigs showing flu-like symptoms to a veterinary diagnostic laboratory for differential testing. Pigs showing clinical signs of illness should not be shipped to slaughter until clinical signs have been resolved.

More information is available on the H1N1 flu at Facts About Pork Safety, or the CDC. Pork producers wanting more information on how to deal with the H1N1 flu should visit Pork Checkoff.