Pork producers, farm personnel and others who come in contact with pigs are advised to get the seasonal flu vaccination as soon as possible now that another flu season has arrived, according to the Pork Checkoff.

“It’s always wise for producers and swine farm workers to reduce the risk of getting sick and bringing the flu to the farm or workplace by getting vaccinated,” explains Lisa Becton, DVM, director of swine health for the Pork Checkoff. “Also, it fits perfectly into the industry’s ‘We Care’ approach to protecting employees, animals and public health.”

The influenza vaccine supply is plentiful this season, according to the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services, which is advising that all people over the age of six months be immunized. At-risk groups should consult their physician before getting any vaccination. These groups include pregnant women, people who live with or care for children younger than six months of age, healthcare and emergency medical services personnel and people with chronic health disorders or compromised immune systems.

Becton says other steps should also be taken to reduce the spread of infection among workers and pigs from human influenza viruses. Modify 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 people may remain contagious up to 24 hours after symptoms stop, usually three to seven days,” she says.

Maintaining good building ventilation and good hygiene both help reduce spread of flu viruses.

“To prevent pigs and humans from other species’ influenza viruses, producers also should look at bird-proofing their buildings, protecting feed from birds and enforcing biosecurity practices, such as the use of farm-specific clothing and footwear,” Becton says. Key biosecurity practices can be found at www.pork.org using keyword biosecurity.

“A good Web site to reference for flu-related information is www.flu.gov,” Becton adds. The Pork Checkoff has a fact sheet on influenza, “Influenza: Pigs, People and Public Health,” available on their Web site.