In anticipation of this flu season, the Pork Checkoff is reminding producers, farm personnel, veterinarians and others who have contact with pigs to get the seasonal flu vaccination as soon as possible to help protect human and pig health. The flu season can start as early as October and can last through May.
“It’s always wise for producers and swine farm workers to reduce the risk of getting sick and bringing influenza to the farm or workplace by getting vaccinated,” says Lisa Becton, director of swine health information and research science and technology for the Pork Checkoff. “Vaccination for influenza is another way that demonstrates the industry’s ‘We Care’ approach to protecting employees, animals and public health.”
Becton recommends other practices to reduce the spread of infection among workers and of the pigs with human influenza viruses. Among them is modifying 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’ as long as the symptoms last, from three to seven days,” she says.
According to the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services, all people over six months of age should be immunized for influenza each year.
At the farm level, attention to good building ventilation and good hygiene can help reduce transmission of flu viruses.
Specifically, Becton says producers should make sure curtains and fans are in working order, look at bird-proofing their buildings, perform routine cleaning and disinfection of barns and incoming supplies, and strictly enforce other biosecurity practices, such as the use of farm-specific clothing and footwear. Focusing on biosecurity practices not only can help prevent the entry of influenza, but also other diseases such as porcine epidemic diarrhea virus.
“Monitoring herd health daily and contacting the herd veterinarian immediately is very important if influenza is suspected,” Becton says. “Rapid detection of influenza can help in timely implementation of appropriate strategies to better manage sick pigs.”