Ag Secretary Tom Vilsack says USDA's National Veterinary Services Laboratories is conducting 'confirmatory testing' on swine samples collected at the 2009 Minnesota State Fair between August 26 and September 1. The pigs sampled at the time showed no signs of illness and were apparently healthy. The samples collected were part of a University of Iowa and University of Minnesota cooperative agreement research project funded by the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention which documents influenza viruses where humans and pigs interact at such as fairs.
The reason for testing is that an outbreak of 2009 pandemic H1N1 influenza occurred in a group of children housed in a dormitory at the fair at the same time samples were collected from the pigs, but no direct link to the pigs has been made. Information available at this time would suggest the children were not sickened by contact with the fair pigs.
"Like people, swine routinely get sick or contract influenza viruses," Vilsack said. "We currently are testing the Minnesota samples to determine if this is 2009 pandemic H1N1 influenza and working in partnership with CDC as well as our animal and public health colleagues and will continue to provide information as it becomes available." Vilsack went on to stress that people cannot get this flu from eating pork or pork products.
The National Pork Producers Council agrees with the Secretary, in that pork is safe to eat and handle and that, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, flu viruses cannot be transmitted through food, including pork. Additionally, NPPC says the U.S. government has strict safeguards in place to protect the safety of the U.S. food supply.
National Pork Board CEO Chris Novak echoed the comments from both the Ag Secretary and NPPC. He says that the two most important steps you can take to protect you and your family from the H1N1 flu are to wash your hands often with soap and water or hand sanitizer and avoid touching your eyes, nose or mouth.