More than 140 people have been infected with a strain of the H3N2 animal influenza virus, which can be transmitted between pigs and humans, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC).
The original 16 cases of the virus were reported August 3. In those cases, all of the infected people had interacted with pigs either through their work or at fairs. This type of transmission indicates that this strain of the virus cannot yet make the leap from human-to-human, according to the CDC.
However, there is some indication that in a few cases, the virus may have been transmitted from person-to-person, although this isn’t yet confirmed.
This type of influenza (commonly known as swine flu) typically doesn’t infect humans, however, some variants of the virus that have infected people have occurred in the U.S. Most often, those infected have been exposed to pigs carrying the virus.
The virus is not transmissible to humans by eating properly handled and prepared pork products, according to the CDC.
The symptoms (e.g., cough, fever and sore throat) mirror the seasonal flu and are not severe, with only two people requiring hospitalization, according to the Nature News Blog.
In fact, the only way to differentiate between the seasonal flu and swine flu is for the infected person to be tested.
So far in 2012, 154 cases have been reported, with the majority of them (120) centered in Indiana. In 2011, there only were 12 confirmed cases.
One reason for the increased numbers may be increased surveillance, especially at animal fair exhibits.
Swine flu made headlines in 2009 when it was the center of a public health incident. The pandemic of H1N1 – the variant of the flu responsible for the illnesses – was declared to be over in 2010 by the World Health Organization. It was the first global pandemic in 40 years, according to the CDC.
However, the association with pigs by the name “swine flu” caused “severe market repercussions” for the pork industry, according to Pork Network.
So, what can you do? The CDC has some tips.
- Basic flu precautions help: Cover your nose and mouth when you sneeze and wash hands with soap and water. If you’re sick, stay home.
- If working with pigs:
- Wash your hands with soap and water often.
- Those with compromised immune systems should avoid being exposed to pigs and swine barns.
- Monitor animals for any sign of illness. Contact a veterinarian if they appear to be ill.
- Avoid contact with sick animals. If you must be around them, take precautions such as wearing gloves and masks.
Biosecurity (in this case, the process of preventing an infectious disease or agent from entering food and feed supply) is critical when managing an animal illness. Pens and areas when the sick animal was contained should be thoroughly cleaned and disinfected.
- Cleaning involves removing all dirt, manure and other debris from pens, equipment and other areas where the animal was kept.
- Disinfectants kill pathogenic microorganisms, such as bacteria and viruses. Ensure the area to be disinfected has been cleaned first.
Remember, it’s best to consult with a veterinarian about what’s best for your facility.
For more biosecurity tips, check out A Champion’s Guide to Youth Swine Exhibition: Biosecurity and Your Pig Project from the American Association of Swine Veterinarians.
Why is it called “swine influenza?” The National Pork Board has put together a fact sheet located here.
For a list of Neogen’s disinfectants and cleaners, click here.