Typically we think of flu-season happening during the winter months, when the weather is cold and people are inside. However, sometimes we do see the spread of influenza virus during the summer months. In some cases, this has occurred after people have come into contact with pigs at fairs and exhibitions. Swine influenza viruses do not normally infect people; however variant viruses can be transferred from pigs to people and people to pigs. These types of viruses have been detected in the U.S., including Michigan, and are known to cause influenza symptoms in people that have come into close contact with pigs. One of the common strains of the virus that we see is the H3N2 virus, which causes similar symptoms to seasonal influenza symptoms and severity.
It is important to understand that influenza virus, including H3N2 is not a food safety threat and swine influenza is not transmissible by consuming pork or pork products. Properly prepared pork is safe to consume and people should not be concerned with contracting influenza caused by the H3N2 virus.
It is always important to use good hygiene practices when you come into contact with animals, the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention has issued the guidelines below to help prevent the spread of influenza:
- Wash your hands often with soap and running water before and after exposure to pigs. If soap and water are not available, use an alcohol-based hand rub or hand sanitizer.
- Never eat, drink or put things in your mouth when in pig areas. Don’t take food or drink into pig areas.
- Never take toys, pacifiers, spill-proof cups, baby bottles, strollers or similar items into pig areas.
- Avoid close contact with pigs that look or act ill.
- Avoid contact with pigs if you are experiencing flu-like symptoms. Avoid contact for seven days after symptoms begin or until you have been fever-free for 24 hours without the use of fever-reducing medications, whichever is longer.
Good hygiene practices should always be used when coming in contact with animals. Simple things like washing your hands is the one of the easiest ways to stay healthy and reduce the risk of spreading disease.