U.S. pork supply is safe; this swine flu not spread by human-hog contact


(USDA/ARS photo)

The U.S. pork supply is considered safe. U.S. agriculture and world health officials emphasize there is no connection between hogs and the current outbreak of swine flu across Mexico and the United States, and that direct contact with hogs is not the source of this hybrid flu strain.


SALEM, Ohio — Panic may be spreading along with the swine flu across the United States, but pork producers want consumers to know that pork is still safe.

Number of cases

At last count, the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention is reporting 64 confirmed cases of the swine flu. Outbreaks have been reported in California, Texas, New York City, Kansas and, most recently, in Ohio. (See a Google map of the cases in the United States.)

The only confirmed case in Ohio, as of press time, involved a 9-year-old boy in Elyria. A second case is suspected in Wood County in an adult woman who returned from Mexico within the last two weeks.

Supply is safe

The National Pork Producers Council released a statement April 26 reassuring the public that pork remains safe. So far, no cases of this hybrid type of swine flu have been found in any livestock in the United States.

“Pork is safe to eat, and direct contact with swine is not the source of, and U.S. pigs have not been infected with, the hybrid influenza that has been identified in a number of people in the United States and more than 1,300 in Mexico,” the NPPC said in a written statement.

Mo Saif, Ohio State University animal health expert with Ohio State’s Ohio Agricultural Research and Development Center, agreed the U.S. pork supply is safe. He explained swine flu viruses are common, but this one is different genetically because it is being spread from person to person.

Saif said he has no concerns over the safety of the pork supply.

“I feel very strongly our pork and pork products is safe based on our country’s inspection process. We inspect the animal before slaughter and after slaughter for signs of illness,” said Saif, who is also an assistant dean of the College of Veterinary Medicine at Ohio State University.

Public fear

Ohio Pork Producers Council Executive Director Dick Isler said the biggest fear right now is the consumer’s misunderstanding of the virus.

Isler said the OPPC wants to get the word out that humans cannot contract this strain of the virus from eating pork. He added consumers should not shy away from pork and instead rely on it like they always have for a balanced diet.

Isler said the worst thing that could happen for pork producers is a drop in the market due to the swine flu outbreak.

“There is no connection between pork safety and the flu outbreak,” Isler said.

Human transmission only

Ron DeHaven, chief executive officer of the American Veterinary Medical Association, is also getting the word out that the virus appears only to be transmitted from human to human.

The American Veterinary Medical Association is working with the American Association of Swine Veterinarians and so far there have been no reports of outbreaks among hog herds, although members of the group are stepping up surveillance for the virus and keeping in close contact with federal and state animal health officials.

Biosecurity measures

Meanwhile, the OPPC is reminding the public that Ohio’s hog farmers are taking every step necessary to ensure biosecurity measures are followed on farms and to prevent disease in state’s hog herds.

The council is, however, recommending vaccinations for pigs and for farm workers, and reminds all Ohioans and hog farmers to use common sense measures against the flu outbreak. The precautions include staying home when you are feeling sick and limiting the number of visitors to hog farms.

Officials with the American Veterinary Association said there is little or no risk of catching swine flu from eating pork or pork products, but, as always, proper food handling and hand washing should be practiced.

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Swine flu news hits commodity markets

URBANA, Ill. — Swine flu has already had an impact on U.S. crop markets.

“In the first trading session following the announcement of incidences of swine flu in Mexico and the United States, corn, soybean, and wheat futures declined sharply,” said University of Illinois Extension marketing specialist Darrel Good.

“Market participants reportedly are concerned that the threat of swine flu will reduce pork demand, stimulating further liquidation of hog numbers and resulting in reduced feed demand.”

Knee-jerk reaction

Such negative reaction, Good noted, is typical with episodes that create so much uncertainty.

“Russia reportedly announced restriction on pork imports from Mexico and selected origins in the United States,” he said, adding he wouldn’t be surprised by restrictions from other importers .

“The hope is that the initial knee-jerk reaction will be followed by more thoughtful responses,” Good added.

“The extent of reported cases of swine flu will be important in determining the depth of demand worries.”


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