[Below is an article from the website of the hog industry magazine, “Pork,” regarding pig to human transmission of swine flu, which includes a higher risk to meat-processing workers]
By Pork news source | Monday, November 28, 2005
Pigs could be holding basin for an influenza pandemic, according to researchers in the University of Iowa College of Public Health.
A team of U of I researchers led by Kendall Myers, a doctoral student in occupational and environmental health, and Gregory Gray, an epidemiology professor, found Iowa producers, veterinarians and meat-processing employees were more susceptible to catching swine influenza than people who didn’t work with pigs.
For this reason, anyone handling hogs should be monitored for exposure to swine influenza or other diseases passed from animals to humans, the researchers said in an article in the online edition of the journal Clinical Infectious Diseases.
“Pigs have receptors to all influenza strains,” says Myers. “They could be simultaneously infected with the bird strain (of influenza) and human strain. You could introduce a more lethal strain to humans.”
The U of I study done from 2002 to 2004 examined 111 Iowa producers, 97 meat-processing employees, 65 veterinarians and 79 people who didn’t work with swine.
Research results indicate producers were most likely to have antibodies in their blood against swine flu, indicating a previous infection of the disease. Veterinarians and meat-processing employees also had elevated levels of antibodies when compared with the control group of people who did not work with pigs, the U of I reported.
Most cases of swine flu produce mild or no symptoms, notes Gray, and the virus is not passed to humans by eating pork. But the U of I researchers fear a new, more dangerous strain of flu could brew in swine and become a pandemic if passed to Iowa’s 200,000 pork industry employees.
Researchers suggest creating a vaccination program and other health policies, such as wearing gloves and avoiding smoking, to control spread of the virus.
“Right now, swine workers are not included in the national pandemic plan, nor are they closely monitored for influenza,” says Gray. “Should pandemic influenza virus strains enter the United States and these workers not be given special attention, we think it could be a really big problem for Iowa.”