The Agriculture Department’s National Veterinary Services Laboratory (NVSL), Ames, IA, is working to confirm a preliminary diagnosis of novel H1N1 pandemic flu virus in swine samples collected during the Minnesota State Fair between Aug. 26 and Sept. 1.

If the samples prove to be positive, it would be the first 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.

“Like people, swine routinely get sick or contract influenza viruses. We currently are testing the Minnesota samples to determine if this is pandemic H1N1 influenza,” says Agriculture Secretary Tom Vilsack. “We are working in partnership with the U.S. Centers for Disease Control (CDC) as well as our animal and public health colleagues and will continue to provide information as it becomes available.”

Vilsack stresses: “I want to remind people that they cannot get this flu from eating pork or pork products.”

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 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.