Keep Your Eye on Factory Farms, China, and the Birds
Huffington Post/David Kirby—On Monday, the USDA reported that pigs in a commercial swine herd at an Indiana factory farm had tested positive for novel H1N1 influenza virus. It was the first time that pigs raised for meat in the US had been found with signs of the bug. Last month, show pigs at the Minnesota State Fair also tested positive for H1N1.
This time, 3,000 “finishing hogs” being fattened for slaughter were suspected of contracting the disease. “Information points to a recent exposure of the pigs with facility caretakers who were exhibiting influenza-like symptoms,” said the website PigProgress.net. “Recovered healthy pigs are being sent to slaughter through normal marketing channels and State public health officials have been notified of the situation.”
Agriculture and health officials have adopted a low-key posture toward the outbreak, noting that herd surveillance is working, and that the pigs in question cleared the virus and recovered on their own. They insisted there was no threat to public health.
The USDA has long pointed out that H1N1 cannot be transmitted by eating or handling pork products, and that US pork is completely safe. And though it would appear that people can infect pigs with H1N1, it is not clear whether live pigs can infect people. For now, officials are far more worried about the former than the latter.