As of this writing, there has not been a confirmed case of influenza caused by the novel 2009 H1N1 virus in US swine herds. However, in anticipation of an infection in the domestic herd, the entire pork chain has fully coordinated its efforts to ensure the best possible outcome should a case be found. According to Dr Paul Sundberg, Vice President of Science and Technology for the Pork Checkoff, plans are in place not only to protect pigs and people, but to reassure producers and consumers that things will remain “business as usual” if and when an outbreak does occur. The overarching message to reinforce to everyone is “You cannot get H1N1 from eating or handling pork or pork products. Pork is safe.”
APHIS guidelines for swine influenza virus
The USDA’s Animal and Plant Health Inspection Service (APHIS) introduced its action plan regarding all swine influenza viruses, including the novel 2009 H1N1 virus. “Guidelines for Novel H1N1 2009 Virus in Swine in the United States, Version 2” is available at www.aphis.usda.gov. The action plan consists of three main areas: surveillance, verification, and ongoing monitoring of confirmed cases. Specifically, the plan addresses surveillance and actions recommended when novel H1N1 is confirmed. In these cases, state animal-health officials remain the primary source of reliable information regarding novel H1N1 in swine and will be critical to the plan’s successful implementation. Under this plan, the herd veterinarian will work with the state animal-health official and the pork producer to monitor animals for illness. When the herd veterinarian has determined that the animals have recovered, or under direction of the state animal-health official, pigs would be allowed to move freely through production and market channels.
The ongoing cooperation and working relationship between federal agencies, state animal-health officials, attending veterinarians, and pork producers should successfully implement this plan to manage and resolve the situation.
Enhanced biosecurity protocols announced
In the quest to prevent disease transmission, including potential novel 2009 H1N1 virus, the National Pork Board has published its latest enhanced biosecurity protocols. The National Pork Board is urging pork producers and veterinarians to:
Limit the number of people you allow into your pork production operation;
Develop and implement an enhanced biosecurity protocol for workers, service personnel, and all other people and equipment entering your facility;
Establish, implement, and enforce strict sick-leave policies for workers who have developed influenza-like symptoms, such as a fever, cough, body aches, and sometimes vomiting and diarrhea;
Follow industry-accepted biosecurity practices.
For the detailed biosecurity plan, go to www.pork.org. Producers also are asked to follow the recommendations of the US Centers for Disease Control and Prevention to prevent further person-to-person spread of the virus (www.cdc.gov/h1n1flu).
New swine euthanasia research begins
To foster new innovation in euthanasia techniques that could offer producers additional options, the National Pork Board has awarded Checkoff-funded research grants to five institutions. Sherrie Niekamp, Pork Checkoff’s Director of Animal Welfare, says the goal of this research is to validate existing recommended methods of euthanasia of swine, especially for suckling and nursery pigs, and to identify and validate new and novel methods of euthanasia. Specifically, the recipient investigators will be seeking ways to improve the use of gas or gas mixtures, captive bolt, gunshot, electrocution, and novel methods of euthanasia. Due to the industry need for this information, Niekamp says research findings will be available in late 2010 or sooner. For current euthanasia recommendations, visit www.pork.org.
Pork Checkoff: Workers need flu shots
Although flu season is already upon us, the season lasts through May in the northern hemisphere. For that reason, the Pork Checkoff is reminding producers, farm personnel, veterinarians, and others who have contact with pigs to get the regular seasonal flu shot in addition to the novel 2009 H1N1 flu vaccine when it becomes available. This recommendation is in alignment with the position taken by the AASV in August.
While it is always important for producers and swine farm workers to do everything they can to remain healthy, the addition of novel 2009 H1N1 to the mix makes it even more essential. Getting vaccinated and following common-sense steps to stop transmission of any flu virus can go a long way in preventing unnecessary illness. Tips from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention are available in Fact Sheet #04726 at www.pork.org.