Advice for veterinarians and swine producers – swine influenza
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What is swine influenza
Swine influenza (flu) is an infectious respiratory disease of pigs caused by type A influenza viruses. The disease is commonly seen throughout the world. Type A influenza viruses also affect a range of other animals, as well as humans.
Influenza viruses are commonly detected in pigs, which can become infected by humans, birds or other pigs. The main sub-types of influenza circulating in pigs in Canada are H1N1, H1N2 and H3N2. Swine influenza viruses do not normally infect people; however, there have been infrequent human infections from these viruses. Cases usually occur following direct or indirect exposure to pigs in settings such as farms or agricultural fairs. The CFIA encourages veterinarians and producers to maintain strong biosecurity measures to limit any risks to human or animal health.
Symptoms in pigs
Signs of swine influenza include the following:
- loss of appetite
- weight loss
- coughing (barking)
- discharge from the nose or eyes
- difficulty breathing
- eye redness or inflammation
- reduced fertility or abortion
How to protect pigs
The following actions can potentially prevent swine influenza:
- vaccinating animals
- ensuring farm workers maintain good hygiene
- following strict biosecurity practices
- providing adequate ventilation in barns
- identifying and segregating sick animals as early as possible
Precautions producers should take to limit the risk of introducing and spreading disease
Producers should follow the national swine farm-level biosecurity standard posted on the Canadian Pork Council's website.
Precautions veterinarians should take when investigating respiratory illnesses in swine
The CFIA recommends that veterinarians:
- prepare and plan the visit by contacting the producer beforehand
- park in designated areas or as far as possible from animals
- adhere to farm biosecurity requirements, including clothing, boot and personal sanitation protocols
- consider the use of respiratory and eye protection; seek clarification from provincial public health officers if you have health concerns
- keep a log book of farms visited
- wash hands thoroughly after handling animals
- leave as you arrived and clean and sanitize vehicles and equipment
- dispose of protective equipment in a safe manner:
- either leave it on the farm to be appropriately disposed or
- remove it and place it in "contaminated materials" containers for transport to the office
- prioritize work by attending low-risk jobs first and then observe animals for concerns and
- avoid or minimize contact with manure storage, feed supplies, and water supplies
- if you have flu like symptoms, avoid visiting swine farms until your illness has resolved
For more detailed information on biosecurity measures recommended for disease investigation farm visits, please contact your local CFIA office.
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