Questions and Answers
Last Reviewed 22 May 2012
Novel H1N1 Influenza A virus Q &A
Why is novel H1N1 Influenza A virus being called ‘swine flu?
The current pandemic of novel H1N1 Influenza A virus has similar characteristics (but not identical to) strains of influenza viruses found in pigs, hence the preliminary association.
What has the Department done to prepare for findings of novel H1N1 Influenza A virus in pigs?
In preparation for the finding of novel H1N1 Influenza A Virus in pigs here, the Department in conjunction with Industry agreed a voluntary Code of Practice (COP) for pig keepers. The Code of Practice provides guidance to pig keepers on the actions they should take to reduce the risk of introduction of influenza viruses to pig herds and to try and minimise onward spread of virus should this occur. The COP has been issued to all pig keepers.
What should pig keepers do?
As always, pig keepers should maintain high levels of bio-security and as necessary contact their Private Veterinary Practice for advice on preventing infection of their pigs. Further advice is contained in the Code of Practice agreed by DARD and Industry.
Pig farmers are encouraged to be vigilant for unusual signs of respiratory disease in pigs and to contact their Private Veterinary Practitioner (PVP) if they are concerned. It is also important for anyone in contact with animals to maintain high standards of bio-security and hygiene.
What surveillance is carried out in Northern Ireland for novel H1N1 Influenza in Pigs?
In Northern Ireland surveillance for swine influenza is carried out on samples from two sources i.e. pre-export testing and diagnostic testing. Testing is carried out at AFBI’s Veterinary Sciences Division. The vast majority of samples originate from cases of respiratory disease submitted to the Diagnostic Service by Private Veterinary Practices (PVP).
Can this virus transmit from humans to pigs?
Yes, any transmission of virus from humans to pigs is most likely to be through people who work with pigs. Our advice to pig keepers and others working with or visiting pig units is that they should avoid contact with pigs if they have flu like symptoms.
Can people catch novel H1N1 Influenza A virus from eating pork?
The FSA have advised that novel H1N1 Influenza A does not pose a food safety risk to consumers.
Is there any risk from people visiting pig farms? What precautions should be taken?
As always, best practice bio-security measures should be adhered to when visiting a farm. Guidance for visitors to farms can be found in DARD’s biosecurity code which is available on the DARD website.