The National Pork Producers Council’s (NPPC) World Pork Expo will go on as scheduled June 3-5, 2009, at the Iowa State Fairgrounds in Des Moines, IA.

NPPC says it has no plans to change the event in reaction to the recent influenza outbreak.

The World Pork Expo Junior National and World Pork Expo Breed Show and Sale will be held as planned during the show. Show organizers will follow strict biosecurity animal health protocols, as is standard procedure.

The H1N1 influenza A virus responsible for the outbreak was incorrectly called “swine flu” when hogs and pork have not been implicated in the spread of the virus in the United States or anywhere in the world, according to the NPPC.

Meanwhile, the first case of H1N1 influenza A virus in pigs has been reported in a swine herd in central Alberta, Canada.

“Albertans can be assured that Canada’s animal health monitoring and surveillance programs are working properly,” says Paul Hodgman, executive director for Alberta Pork. “We commend the producer and his farm vet for notifying authorities as soon as his hogs were displaying flu-like symptoms.”

The Alberta herd has been quarantined until it can be determined for sure which flu virus the hogs may have. Samples have been taken from the herd and sent for testing.

Media reports indicate that apparently the hogs contracted the H1N1 virus from a farm worker who recently returned from Mexico and became ill with the flu.

“Hogs are susceptible to many human flu viruses and we are working hard to ensure that all proper biosecurity measures are in place on our farms,” Hodgman adds. “These steps minimize the introduction of a virus onto a farm, by people, by vehicles, by wildlife such as birds or other livestock.”

In the wake of the report from Canada, the National Pork Board reiterated that pork is safe to eat and handle.

“People cannot get the flu from eating or handling pork,” says Liz Wagstrom, DVM, assistant vice president of science and technology for the National Pork Board. “The flu is a respiratory illness; it’s not a food-borne illness.”

The World Health Organization, the World Organization for Animal Health (OIE) and the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention and the U.S. Departments of Agriculture, Health and Human Services and Homeland Security clarified that the H1N1 flu strain cannot be transmitted by eating pork and it’s not a food safety issue.

On May 2, 2009, the World Trade Organization, the OIE and the U.N. Food and Agriculture Organization released a joint statement saying pork is safe.

“Influenza is not uncommon in pigs,” Wagstrom says, “but they recover and it does not affect the safety or quality of pork.

“It is well known that influenzas are transmissible, and it is not a surprise that a flu virus might have passed from people to pigs. The bottom line is pork is safe to eat and handle.”