Swine Flu: info for people, pets and pig farmers

To say people are concerned about this Swine Flu outbreak might be a slight understatement, so we thought we’d help make sure y’all have the information you need to make good decisions and take care of yourselves (and your animals)! We’re not generally in the habit of sending out health advisories, but this is an unprecedented situation so here’s the 411:

First up – you need to stay healthy so you can take proper care of your pets. According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) and the U.S. Department of Homeland Security:

  • People cannot get swine flu from eating pork or pork products. Most influenza viruses, including the swine flu virus, are not spread by food.
  • Eating properly handled and cooked pork products is safe.
  • No food safety issues have been identified, related to the flu.
  • Preliminary investigations have determined that none of the people infected with the flu had contact with hogs.
  • The virus is spreading by human-to-human transmission.

The CDC sensibly recommends the following measures to prevent the transmission of flu: 

  • Cover your nose and mouth with a tissue when you cough or sneeze.                                                        
  • Throw the tissue in the trash after you use it.
  • Wash your hands frequently (for at least 20 seconds – FYI that’s as long as it takes to sing the alphabet) and use alcohol-based sanitizers.
  • Try not touch surfaces that may be contaminated with the flu virus.
  • Avoid close contact with people who are sick.
  • Try to stay in good general health.
  • Get plenty of sleep, be physically active, manage your stress, drink plenty of fluids, and eat nutritious food.

Are you concerned about your pet contracting swine flu?

Various sources, including this veterinary health blog (which is definitely worth a read), suggest that most likely, your dog or cat will not contract swine flu. “This isn’t an absolute answer, as viruses change, but historically there are no known dog/cat to human (or vice-versa) influenza transmissions.” Obviously, if you suspect that your dog or cat is sick, please contact your veterinarian directly for an examination and to discuss any questions.

And finally, because some people keep pigs.

If you own swine, take steps to prevent the disease from being transmitted to your herd:

  • Workers should shower and change into farm-specific clothes and shoes before entering swine facilities. 
  • Establish, implement and enforce strict sick leave policies for workers presenting influenza-like symptoms.
  • Recommend that workers with symptoms be seen by a medical provider immediately.
  • Restrict the entry of people into your facility to only workers and essential service personnel.
  • Prevent international visitors from entering your facilities.
  • Ensure adequate ventilation in facilities to minimize re-circulation of air inside animal housing facilities. 
  • Vaccinate pigs against the influenza virus.  Vaccination of pigs can reduce the levels of virus shed by infected animals
  • Contact your swine veterinarian if swine exhibit flu-like or respiratory illness, especially if the onset or presentation of the illness is unusual.  
  • Notify your Texas Animal Health Commission area office or the Austin headquarters at 800-550-8242, after you have contacted your veterinarian.

The Texas Animal Health Commission is ready to assist with on-farm investigations, if pigs are present where a known human case has occurred, and to assist with epidemiological investigations with any human cases that may have links to swine in Texas.

Finally, DON’T PANIC! Get informed, stay informed and take sensible precautions. The CDC has up to date information on their site – http://www.cdc.gov/swineflu/ – we hope you, your pets (and your pigs) stay healthy through these interesting times!

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