A federal laboratory has confirmed the presence of the 2009 novel H1N1 flu virus in samples taken from pigs at two North Carolina farms.
North Carolina is the 10th state with identified cases of H1N1 in animals.
The animals have been under the care of a private veterinarian and have recovered from the illness.
“The herd veterinarian noticed signs of mild illness in the pigs and conducted tests to determine the type,” State Veterinarian David Marshall said. “Confirmatory tests by the U.S. Department of Agriculture’s National Veterinary Services Laboratory in Ames, Iowa, indicated the virus was H1N1.
“Pigs are subject to flu viruses just like humans, so it’s not unexpected to find it in a herd,” Marshall said. “These cases show that our surveillance system is working.”
People cannot contract H1N1 from handling or consuming pork or pork products, according to the World Health Organization and the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. The U.S. meat inspection system provides an additional safeguard by inspecting all animals presented for slaughter.
“We want to reassure the public that it is safe to eat pork from swine that have been infected previously and recovered from influenza viruses, including novel viruses,” State Health Director Jeff Engel said. “As always, we will continue to work closely with the Department of Agriculture and Consumer Services to protect the health and safety of the public.”
Dr. Tom Ray, director of livestock health at the North Carolina Department of Agriculture and Consumer Services, said it appears the pigs at both farms caught the virus from humans. The herd owners indicated that workers who had contact with the animals had exhibited flu-like illness in the days preceding the animals’ illness, Ray said.
North Carolina joins Minnesota, Indiana and Illinois with confirmed cases of novel H1N1 flu in pigs. The virus also has been identified in cats in Iowa, Oregon and Pennsylvania; ferrets in Oregon, turkeys in Virginia, a dog in New York and a cheetah in California. In all these cases, it appears the animals caught the virus from humans.
For additional information, visit www.usda.gov/wps/portal/?navid=USDA_H1N1 .