In 2009, there was an outbreak of H1N1 influenza, commonly called 'swine flu', in humans. It did not affect any pigs in Tasmania and only a very small number of pigs on the mainland. Despite being called 'swine flu' in the media and by most commentators at the time, it was principally a human flu.
For information on swine flu in people contact the Department of Health and Human Services (DHHS) on 1800 358 362 (1800 FLU DOC) or the Tasmanian Government's Public Health website.
What is swine influenza in pigs?
Swine influenza is a highly contagious acute respiratory disease of pigs caused by type A influenza virus. Influenza in pigs is characterised by high morbidity (i.e. a high rate of illness or infection) and low mortality. Swine influenza in pigs occurs in most other pig-producing countries in the world, and is considered endemic in the United States of America and Mexico.
Internationally pig influenza outbreaks occur year round and many countries routinely vaccinate swine populations against Swine Influenza.
Although normally swine influenza viruses are species specific, sometimes swine influenza will cause disease in people. International outbreaks and sporadic infections in people (pigs to people) have been reported occasionally in the past. Infections have also been reported to spread from people to pigs although this is also not a common occurrence. To avoid infecting their pigs with influenza A, pig owners should:
- ensure piggery workers are vaccinated against the flu
- discourage workers with flu-like symptoms from attending work
- limit visitors to their piggeries
- ensure they maintain a high level of disinfection and cleaning practices.
Is it safe to eat pork and pig meat products from pigs with swine influenza?
Yes. The World Health Organisation advises that swine influenza has not been shown to be transmissible to people through eating pork and pork meat products. Eating properly handled and cooked pork and pork products is safe as cooking pork to temperatures of 70C kills influenza virus.
What would swine influenza look like in my pigs?
In the Australian herd which has had no previous exposure to swine influenza, swine influenza would typically be expected to manifest as a sudden onset in pigs of all ages:
- Pigs going off feed
- Sudden onset high fever
- Discharge from eyes and nose, sneezing
- Breathing difficulties and a barking cough
- Huddling and inactivity.
In general with swine influenza, a large number of pigs is likely to be affected (up to 100%) but only a small number are likely to die (1-4%).Swine influenza in pigs is a notifiable disease in Tasmania. If your pigs show these symptoms then you should consult with your veterinary advisor or contact the Department of Primary Industries, Parks, Water and Environment immediately on 03 6233 6875 or the Disease Watch Hotline 1800 675 888.