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New flu strain not found in U.S. swine herds

Swine flu has not turned up in on-going monitoring of U.S. swine herds. Besides, the strain of swine flu that has sickened more than 60 people in the United States and killed or sickened many more in Mexico has proven to include human influenza and avian influenza genes, as well as swine influenza genes, according to two Kansas State University scientists.

"There is no evidence that this swine influenza virus is currently in the U.S. swine population," said Juergen Richt, veterinary microbiologist and University Distinguished Professor in the K-State College of Veterinary Medicine. He added that in the U.S. cases, there is no evidence that the people affected had any interaction with swine.

Richt said that the H1N1 virus "most likely originated in the swine population in Mexico."

Because influenza is a virus found in the respiratory system in humans and pigs, there is little chance that meat from even infected swine would be contaminated - as long as humans are not eating meat from the lungs or other parts of the respiratory tract, Richt said. Even if it were present on pork meat, which would be unlikely, thorough cooking would kill the virus.

For that reason and because the disease has not been found in any U.S. swine, K-State swine veterinarian Steve Dritz said, "From a scientific standpoint, thereĀ“s no reason to limit exports of U.S. pork."

Information from the World Health Organization posted April 28 on the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) Website, concurred: "There is also no risk of infection from this virus from consumption of well-cooked pork and pork products. Individuals are advised to wash hands thoroughly with soap and water on a regular basis and should seek medical attention if they develop any symptoms of influenza-like illness."

Both Richt and Dritz said this human outbreak of swine flu should serve as a reminder to swine producers to be vigilant in monitoring the health of their herds.

Dritz said that it is now especially important for producers to limit visitors to their operations and to question employees - specifically about whether they have had flu symptoms in the past two to three days. The symptoms are like any flu symptoms, he said, including fever, coughing, lack of appetite and/or nasal congestion.

If producers discover respiratory disease symptoms in their herd, it is important that they contact a veterinarian so that appropriate tests are done.

Dritz said that although most swine flu strains have low mortality rates, it is possible for a strain to have higher mortality rates than are typical. He reminded, however, that the strain of swine flu that has sickened people in several countries and killed more than 150 people in Mexico, has not been found in U.S. pigs.

An audio report of interviews with Juergen Richt and Steve Dritz on this subject is available on the K-State Research and Extension Web site.

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