H1N1 flu didn’t start on Mexican hog farm

MEXICO CITY — According to Mexican officials, there is no outbreak of Influenza A (H1N1) at any farm in the country.

Mexico’s Secretary of Agriculture Alberto Cardenas Jimenez said a team of 450 veterinarians who traveled the country’s pig farms found no outbreak of Influenza A H1N1. That means the influenza strain that has infected almost 4,300 people in 33 countries did not originate from hogs at a Smithfield Foods operation that had been singled out by some.

“We have to regain consumer confidence in pork products,” Jimenez said.

Mexico’s pork industry includes a herd of 15 million pigs.

Too late

Here in the U.S., the news was welcomed by the National Pork Producers Council, but the organization said the damage to the U.S. pork industry from mislabeling the strain “swine” flu has been done.

The first day the flu outbreak received wide media coverage, April 24, pork producers were losing $10.91 per pig. After two weeks of reporting on the “swine” flu, pork prices fell dramatically, with producers losing an average of $20.60 per pig, or nearly $8.4 million a day, according to the pork producers council.

Ban on U.S. pork

Pork prices dropped because of a dip in domestic demand as well as import bans on U.S. pork imposed by a number of U.S. trading partners, including Russia and China.

Russia’s ban now applies only to 11 states, most of which are not major pork producers, and at least a dozen countries that banned, or indicated they would ban, U.S. pork now have reversed themselves.

After initial reports of the flu outbreak, the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention said: “This [flu] virus is different, very different from that found in pigs,” and, on April 26, the World Organization for Animal Health said the H1N1 influenza never should have been named “swine” flu and that there was no justification for the imposition of trade restrictions, a position also taken by the World Trade Organization.

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