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As swine flu threat escalates, vets urged to increase surveillance


Veterinarians have been called on to keep the new swine flu strain out of U.S. swine herds.

National Report

-- Forty cases of a never-before seen strain of swine influenza now have been reported in the United States. But pigs, so far, have been safe from what is already being called a Phase 3 pandemic.

Veterinarians and pork producers are being asked to step up biosecurity measures to prevent the introduction of the new flu strain into U.S. swine herds. This H1N1 strain is a combination of two kinds of swine flu, avian flu and the human flu virus.The National Pork Board and the American Association of Swine Veterinarians (AASV) issued statements urging veterinarians and producers to increase surveillance and reporting of suspicious animal cases.

Veterinarians are being urged to use protective equipment during necropsies and treatments, frequently wash hands and employ other safety procedures routinely recommended to protect against a zoonotic disease outbreak. AASV asked veterinarians to submit diagnostic samples of lung tissues and nasal swabs from acutely ill febrile pigs to veterinary labs. The U.S. Department of Agriculture urged state veterinarians to quickly report any suspicious cases, and all veterinary diagnostic labs have been put on high alert.

On the human side, the number of confirmed cases increased from seven to 40 in less than a week, and more cases are expected, according to the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC). Seven total cases have been confirmed by the CDC in California, plus two in Kansas, two in Texas, and more recently 28 in New York City and one in Ohio. There have been no deaths attributed to the swine flu in the U.S., and people in only two of the cases needed to be hospitalized.

CDC declared the outbreak a Phase 3 pandemic, with limited human-to-human cases. It could be upgraded to a Phase 4 pandemic if community-wide outbreaks start to occur.

Mexican authorities confirmed 18 cases and are investigating at least 19 other possible cases, according to the CDC. There also are a high number of reports of pneumonia in Mexico, and the U.S. has advised caution when traveling there.

Europe and Asia also have cautioned travelers and some countries have considered quarantines, but so far no travel bans have been issued. The European Union is urging people to postpone nonessential travel to areas where cases have been reported. China and Russia, however, have banned imports of pork from Mexico and some U.S. states.

In addition to Mexico, one case of swine flu was confirmed in Spain, in a young man who recently had spent time studying in Mexico. Other cases in Spain are being investigated. Three possible cases in New Zealand also are under investigation, involving people who recently had traveled to Mexico.

More information is available on the AASV Web site or on the CDC’s Web site.

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