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Swine Flu Stigma Hurts US Hog Farmers


A hog farm in Alberta, Canada has confirmed the first case of H1N1 swine flu in its pig population, mostly likely transmitted from a human worker that recently visited Mexico. This development heightens the attention that is already focused on the animal that the virus is named after. VOA reports, hog farmers and veterinarians across the United States are trying to spread the word that pork products are safe to eat, and the strictest biosecurity measures are in place to prevent pigs from contracting the virus in the United States.

As head of the Illinois Pork Producer Association, Brent Scholl is quick to point out that the H1N1 swine flue virus , has little to do with swine. "It's really a misnomer, the flu itself is made up of different species, it's not even made up of anything of swine anyway to begin with," he said. "It has hurt. Our industry has been struggling in the last 18 months to make money, and we were just about ready to make money again, and now this here is affecting us greatly."

Scholl, who also owns a pig farm, has watched the price of his hogs plummet in the last week. "We actually marketed some hogs this morning, and it's lower today than it was yesterday on that, so it definitely affects our bottom line, what we thought we would be making on those pigs," he said.

Even though Scholl owns hundreds of pigs housed in several large buildings on his farm, VOA was not allowed access to areas that contained swine.

"That would be a little bit because of me," Dr. Sandra Amass said. Dr. Amass is Associate Dean, Purdue University School of Veterinary Sciences in Indiana. She specializes in swine production medicine and biosecurity measures that farmers use to protect their animals from infection.

"If people that work on the farm are showing signs of a disease like influenza that could potentially be spread to pigs, we don't want them handling pigs directly. We don't like having visitors on the farm that may have had contact with other animals or may have been in other countries where they contacted other animals that might have diseases which are not in the United States," she stated.

Most hog farmers across the United States already had biosecurity measures in place before the latest outbreak. The measures also help keep other disease and illnesses away from the animals.

Location is also another way farmers like Scholl can be sure the animals are healthy. "There isn't another hog farm within probably five or six miles [eight or nine kilometers] from us, so we have limited access that way too," he said.

That limited access has so far kept his investment safe and healthy, as well as other pig farms in the United States. Pork producers as well as veterinarians insist that pork products are safe to eat.

But with the first case of H1N1 swine flu now reported on a hog farm in Alberta Canada, farmers could see continuing drops in hog prices as confidence in the safety of pork products continues to decline.
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