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Questions and Answers
FREQUENTLY ASKED QUESTIONS ABOUT H1N1
Updated: May 7, 2009
Also see: Center for Disease Control
Q. Do any swine in the United States have the H1N1 flu virus that has infected humans?
A. There is no evidence at this time that swine in the United States are infected with this virus strain.
Q. Can the H1N1 virus be transferred from humans to swine or vice versa?
A. USDA's National Animal Disease Center in Ames, Iowa, is conducting tests to determine the transmissibility and severity of the H1N1 flu virus in pigs. The Canadian Food Inspection Agency (CFIA) through its surveillance, announced recently that it found the H1N1 flu virus in a swine herd in Alberta. The CFIA believes it is highly probable that the pigs were exposed to the virus from a Canadian who had recently returned from Mexico and had been exhibiting flu-like symptoms. Signs of illness were subsequently observed in the pigs. The individual has recovered and all of the pigs are recovering or have recovered. The pigs are in quarantine.
USDA continues to monitor the U.S. swine herd and to date, this particular strain of H1N1 has not been found in U.S. swine.
Q. Can I get this new strain of virus from eating pork or pork products?
A. No. According to USDA scientists, H1N1 flu is not a foodborne disease, it is a respiratory disease. USDA continues to educate the public through its food safety efforts and reminds consumers that all meat and poultry products are safe to eat when properly prepared and cooked as this kills all foodborne pathogens. More information about safe food handling is at www.befoodsafe.gov.
Q. What steps can I take to make sure that I prepare my food properly?
A. USDA reminds consumers to practice safe food handling and preparation techniques for all meat and poultry. Eating properly handled and cooked meat and poultry products are safe. Information about safe food preparation and cooking is available at www.befoodsafe.gov.
Q. What is this flu that people are talking about in the news?
A. It is a new strain of flu that consists of a mixture of genetic material from swine, avian and human influenza viruses.
Q. Is USDA testing and monitoring to make sure swine are not infected with the virus and if so, how?
A. A network of Federal veterinarians, state animal health officials and private practitioners are regularly involved with monitoring U.S. swine for signs of significant disease.
To date, there have been no reports that the influenza virus currently causing illness in humans is circulating anywhere in the U.S. swine herd.
As a proactive measure, USDA is reaching out to all state animal health officials to affirm they have no signs of this virus type in their state.
USDA has put U.S. pork producers on a high alert for safety.
As part of a comprehensive safeguarding system, USDA's laboratories routinely provide diagnostic and research services in support of ongoing operational programs.
Q. How will the public be notified if the government finds H1N1 flu in a U.S. herd?
A. Delivering factual, timely information is a priority for USDA. Should there be a detection of influenza in the U.S. swine herd, those results would be shared with the public in a timely fashion.
As with all potential animal health disease situations, USDA's National Veterinary Services Laboratories stand ready to provide support of disease control and eradication programs, reagents for diagnostic testing, training and laboratory certification.
Q. Can you get H1N1 flu from being around or touching swine?
A. The CDC says that the spread of H1N1 flu can occur in two ways:
Through contact with infected pigs or environments contaminated with H1N1 flu virus.
Through contact with a person with H1N1 flu. Human-to-human spread of the H1N1 flu is thought to occur in the same way as seasonal flu. Influenza is thought to spread mainly person-to-person through coughing or sneezing of infected people.
Q. How do we ensure that we take the appropriate measures to protect our swine?
A. We encourage commercial pork producers to intensify the bio-security practices they've long had in place. They should not loan equipment or vehicles to or borrow them from other farms. Swine from outside sources, such as transitional herds should not be brought back to the farm. Transitional herd is the term we use to define those herds that have some likelihood of contact with feral swine.
They should permit only essential workers and vehicles to enter the farm. Swine workers should disinfect their shoes, clothes and hands. They should thoroughly clean and disinfect equipment and vehicles entering and leaving the farm and avoid visiting other livestock farms without proper cleaning and disinfection.
Also, they should report sick animals immediately. The industry understands the importance of preventing spread of the virus as quickly as possible to protect the industry.
Q. Is there a vaccine for humans for this new strain?
A.The CDC should answer any questions about a vaccine. According to the CDC, there is no vaccine to protect humans from this new variant H1N1 flu. Go to www.cdc.gov for more information.
Q. Is my potbelly pig in danger? Can I get it from my pet?
A. There is no evidence at this time that the virus is in U.S. swine.
Swine owners should learn the warning signs of swine influenza. Signs of swine flu in pigs can include sudden onset of fever, depression, coughing (barking), discharge from the nose or eyes, sneezing, breathing difficulties, eye redness or inflammation, and going off feed. If your pig is showing any of these signs, call your veterinarian.
Buy your animals from reputable sources and ensure that you have documentation of your new pet's origin. Be sure that you get your new animals checked by a veterinarian.
Keep your pigs and areas around them clean. If you have been around other animals, make sure that you clean your shoes, clothing, and other items. And don't forget to wash your hands with warm water and soap for 20 seconds before and after handling your pet.