STATEMENT FROM AGRICULTURE SECRETARY VILSACK REGARDING ANIMAL HEALTH AND 2009 PANDEMIC H1N1 INFLUENZA
"Swine influenza has been present in the United States for over 80 years, but the 2009 pandemic H1N1 influenza virus now circulating among humans is not the same as "swine flu." The 2009 pandemic H1N1 influenza currently circulating among humans is a "novel" flu strain, with a genetic makeup that is unique and has not been seen before in humans, birds or pigs.
To date there have been no reports that this 2009 pandemic H1N1 influenza is circulating anywhere in the U.S. swine herd. And if it were, you cannot get infected with the 2009 pandemic H1N1 influenza virus from eating pork or pork products.
This fall, it is possible that we will find the 2009 pandemic H1N1 influenza virus in swine. USDA has implemented a swine influenza virus surveillance program. Monitoring and studying these influenza viruses in swine will help us learn about the virus, create better tools to diagnose and develop new and improved vaccines to protect U.S swine herds.
USDA continues to study the virus in agricultural animals to provide the best protection for both public and animal health. USDA also has made master seed virus for the 2009 pandemic H1N1 flu available to interested veterinary biologics manufacturers. This action will allow manufacturers to more rapidly produce an approved vaccine. USDA estimates that providing two seed viruses to five manufacturers saved each company approximately 4 to 7 months of time normally spent in development, testing and regulatory submissions.
If we do detect the 2009 pandemic H1N1 influenza virus in swine, USDA will work with our state partners, the producer and their veterinarian to prevent spread of the virus. When it comes to flu, swine are much like people – the vast majority recovers without any lingering health effects. Only those animals that have fully recovered will go to market.
Since last spring and the onset of the 2009 pandemic H1N1 influenza outbreak in humans, USDA has consistently asked that the media stop calling this "novel" pandemic virus "swine flu." By continuing to mislabel the 2009 pandemic H1N1 influenza virus that is affecting human populations around the world, the media is causing undue and undeserved harm to America's agriculture industry, especially to pork producers.
Each time the term is used it unfairly hurts America's farmers who are suffering severe economic losses during these challenging economic times. And each time the media uses the phrase "swine flu" a hog farmer, their workers and their families suffer. It is simply not fair or correct to associate the 2009 pandemic H1N1 influenza with hogs, an animal that does not play a role in the ongoing transmission of the pandemic strain.
A number of our nation's trading partners have banned live pigs, pork or pork products since the outbreak among humans began. We will continue to urge countries to base any bans on scientific evidence and in accordance with their international obligations. Three major international health organizations -- the World Organization for Animal Health (OIE), the United Nations' Food and Agriculture Organization, and the World Health Organization -- have all issued statements that 2009 pandemic H1N1 influenza is not transmitted by eating meat."