Even though the flu season is now in full force, the Pork Checkoff still recommends producers, farm personnel and others who have contact with pigs get the seasonal flu vaccination as soon as possible to help protect human and pig health.

It’s also a good idea to review on-farm practices to protect yourself and your pigs, reminds Lisa Becton, DVM, director of Swine Health Research and Information, National Pork Board.

“We recommend that you maintain biosecurity, properly isolate animals before you bring them in, and work with your veterinarian on an appropriate influenza vaccine schedule,” Becton asserts.

Additional steps for on-farm management of influenza include the implementation and use of a sick-leave policy for personnel in contact with swine.  Workers who are ill with influenza-like illness should remain at home and not work around pigs.

Wash your hands frequently and don’t eat meals in the barns in order to ensure proper sanitation and hygiene standards.

“If your pigs are sick, report it to your manager and let the veterinarian know so they can get an appropriate diagnosis and treatment plan,” she says.

Veterinarians in the field have mentioned that there appears to be a considerable amount of influenza affecting pig herds this winter, Becton says. She encourages producers to have their veterinarian submit respiratory samples to their diagnostic laboratory and participate in USDA’s anonymous swine influenza virus surveillance program.

The program, launched in 2010, has three goals: 1) Track and monitor the virus to know what is circulating and to help determine the level of mutation; 2) Ensure that laboratory diagnostics are current and can detect flu strains as they continue to mutate; and 3) Review commercial vaccines and determine if different vaccines are needed to protect the nation’s swine herd.

Becton says results of the surveillance program proved helpful last summer during numerous flu outbreaks at fairs to calm fears that a potentially new flu virus had emerged that might pose an increased risk to the population.

“We’ve been able to show that these isolates found at the fairs were similar to those influenza isolates already circulating in swine,” she explains. “People sometimes do not realize that influenza is a common infection that we see in swine, and it is something that producers and their veterinarians are familiar in dealing with.”