Even though the flu season is now in full force, the Pork Checkoff still recommends producers, farm personnel and others who have contact with pigs get the seasonal flu vaccination as soon as possible to help protect human and pig health.
"It's never too late to get a flu vaccination that can help reduce the risk of getting sick and bringing the flu to the farm or workplace," said Jennifer Koeman, director of producer and public health for the Pork Checkoff. "It also demonstrates the industry's 'We Care' ethical principle is in action to help protect employees, animals and public health."
According to the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services, all people over 6 months of age should be immunized for influenza each year.
"People may remain contagious for up to five to seven days after getting sick," Koeman said. "That's why it's so crucial that employers have a sick-leave policy that encourages those experiencing symptoms of influenza-like illness to stay home."
The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention said in a press conference Friday that the flu in the United States has already passed the epidemic threshold of more than 7.2% of deaths caused by pneumonia and the flu.
As of Friday, 24 states were reporting high levels of influenza-like illness, 16 states were reporting moderate levels, five states were reporting low levels, and one state was reporting minimal levels, according to a CDC update.
At the farm level, good building ventilation and good hygiene can 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," Koeman said.
According to Lisa Becton, Pork Checkoff's director of swine health information and research, "It's very important to monitor your herd's health daily and contact your herd veterinarian if influenza is suspected. Rapid detection of influenza can help producers and their veterinarians implement appropriate strategies to better manage sick pigs."
The Pork Checkoff also has information and resources on flu at www.pork.org/flu.