"It's always wise for producers and swine farm workers to reduce the risk of getting sick and bringing the flu to the farm or workplace by getting vaccinated,” said Dr. Lisa Becton, director of swine health for the Pork Checkoff. “Also, it fits perfectly into the industry's 'We Care' approach to protecting employees, animals and public health."
The influenza vaccine supply is plentiful this year, according to the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services. All people over six months of age should be immunized. At-risk groups – which includes pregnant women, people who live with or care for children younger than six months of age, healthcare and emergency medical services personnel, as well as those with chronic health disorders or compromised immune systems – should check with their physician before getting a vaccination.
Becton recommends taking other steps to reduce the spread of infection among workers and of the pigs with human-influenza viruses. Sick-leave policies should be modified to encourage workers to stay away from the farm if they are suffering from acute respiratory infections.
"Virus shedding is at its peak when the clinical illness is most severe, but people may remain contagious up to 24 hours after symptoms stop, usually three to seven days," she said.
Good building ventilation and good hygiene also will help reduce transmission of flu viruses.
"To prevent pigs and humans from other species' influenza viruses, producers also should look at bird-proofing their buildings, protecting feed from birds and enforcing biosecurity practices, such as the use of farm-specific clothing and footwear," Becton said.
Other biosecurity protocols can be found at www.pork.org using keyword biosecurity.
"A good Web site to reference for flu-related information is www.flu.gov. Also, the Pork Checkoff has a factsheet on influenza, 'Influenza: Pigs, People and Public Health,' that offers some good basic information," Becton concluded.