Monday, November 09, 2009

H1N1 flu identified in U.S. swine herd

After months of saying that the H1N1 flu had not been found in the U.S. swine herd, USDA in October reported that the H1N1 flu virus was found in swine at the Minnesota State Fair.

At the time, USDA reassured the public that this news did not indicate flu would be found in commercial herds, "because show pigs and commercially raised pigs are in separate segments of the swine industry that do not typically interchange personnel or animal stock."

This month, USDA found the virus in a commercial swine herd in Indiana (.pdf).

USDA may need to update its frequently asked questions page (.pdf). The website document still contains the sentence: "To date, the 2009 pandemic H1N1 flu virus has not been found in the U.S. swine herd." However, a notation in red has been added to the top of several pages, saying, "as of 9/1/2009 9:58 PM," apparently to indicate that this statement is no longer current.

The CDC's frequently asked questions page, dated November 5, contains the question, "Why is 2009 H1N1 virus sometimes called “swine flu”?" The response indicates that the term "swine flu" is incorrect, because "further study has shown that this new virus is very different from what normally circulates in North American pigs." Depending on how one defines "normally," this page may also need editing.

USDA has previously asked people not to call the H1N1 flu by the common name, "swine flu."

The National Pork Board provides reassurance that you cannot get the flu from eating pork products. Instead, the virus is transmitted from humans to commercial swine when the pigs catch the flu from farm workers. It is possible that the virus is also transmitted from pigs to humans in a similar manner.

The H1N1 flu in swine has been covered by David Kirby at the Huffington Post, Tom Philpott at Grist, and, just today, the New York Times blog Green Inc.

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