MANHATTAN, Kan. - In just a few short days, an amazing amount of information and misinformation on the Influenza A H1N1 virus -- initially called swine flu -- swept through global commodity and financial markets and right into peoples' televisions, computers and everyday conversations.
To help separate fact from fiction, Kansas State University Research and Extension veterinarian Larry Hollis, along with K-State Extension state leader and swine specialist Mike Tokach and K-State swine veterinarian Steve Dritz, answered some questions about the virus:
There have not been any reports of pig-to-human transmission in the U.S. There have not even been any reports of H1N1 Influenza's existing in any swine herds in the U.S. All human disease incidence reports to date have been from human-to-human transmissions.
At this time, the only known source of where people have gotten the disease is from other humans. When healthy people are exposed to a person infected with the H1N1 virus, they may potentially become infected.
A portion of the genetic material in the H1N1 virus is identical to that seen in cases of swine influenza several years ago. The H1N1 genetic material of the virus is also made up, however, of portions that originated as human influenza cases and other portions that originated as past avian influenza cases. Genetic material from all three sources have re-assorted to develop the current Influenza A H1N1 strain causing human disease. Since the largest portion of the genetic material was from swine, it was termed swine flu without its ever being documented as being in or transmitted from a pig.
The World Health Organization (WHO), U.S. Department of Health and Human Services, and U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) have stopped using the term "swine flu" and have begun calling it by the correct terminology, Influenza A virus H1N1.
No U.S. herds have had any reported health-related problems with this H1N1 Influenza virus. There are other strains of influenza in some swine herds, but these strains typically do not cause human disease and are dealt with in the swine herd primarily through effective vaccination programs.
Yes. Swine farms should reinforce their biosecurity efforts and make sure that employees and visitors follow all biosecurity procedures, in an effort to keep people from bringing the virus into their herds. Since we do not have evidence of this H1N1 virus in US swine herds, we do not want it to infect US swine herds now. This could even provide a potential chance for the virus to recombine with another influenza virus strain in the pig. And, each time influenza viruses combine across strains, it increases their potential to cause disease.
Yes. Pigs on a farm in Canada have apparently caught the H1N1 Influenza virus from a person returning to the farm from a recent visit to Mexico.
No. H1N1 viruses are not spread by food, so you cannot get this new HIN1 virus from eating pork or pork products. Eating properly handled and cooked pork products is safe.
Researchers at the CDC estimate 36,000 people per year die from influenza-related infections.