The National Pork Board is urging pork producers, farm workers, veterinarians and others who have contact with pigs to get a flu shot. The flu season can start as early as October and can last through May.
“Producers and swine farm workers can reduce the risk of getting sick and bringing the flu to the farm or workplace by getting vaccinated,” stresses Liz Wagstrom, DVM, assistant vice president of science and technology for the Pork Board.
“The flu shot contains two type A viruses and one type B virus. The type A viruses may spread between people and pigs. The B virus is not of concern to the health of the animals,” she notes.
Humans will develop antibodies that will protect them against infection with the flu virus two weeks after taking the shot, says Wagstrom. The flu shot is available as an injection or in a nasal spray. “The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention or CDC recommends that pregnant women not get the nasal vaccine,” Wagstrom cautions.
She recommends following other practices to reduce the spread of infection among workers and pigs with human influenza viruses, such as modifying sick leave policies to encourage workers to stay away from the farm if they are ill with acute respiratory infections.
“Virus shedding is at its peak when the clinical illness is most severe, but people may remain ‘contagious’ as long as the symptoms last, from three to seven days,” she adds.
Good building ventilation and proper hygiene also will reduce transmission of the 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,” Wagstrom suggests. She also advises chlorinating the water used on the farm, especially if it is surface or pond water since migrating fowl and other wildlife may spread different viruses.
“The CDC has great information about the flu shot, who should get it, and who should not. I’d recommend that everybody visit their Web site, www.cdc.gov, for more information,” says Wagstrom.
The Pork Board’s fact sheet on influenza, “Influenza: Pigs, People and Public Health,” can be accessed online at www.pork.org/PorkScience/PublicHealth.aspx?c=FactSheets.