Local News

N.C. pigs test positive for H1N1

Posted December 23, 2009 1:47 p.m. EST
Updated December 24, 2009 5:19 a.m. EST

— Pigs from two North Carolina farms have tested positive for the H1N1 virus, agriculture officials said Wednesday.

The animals have been under the care of a private veterinarian and have recovered from the illness, which is also known as swine flu, officials said.

“Pigs are subject to flu viruses just like humans, so it’s not unexpected to find it in a herd,” State Veterinarian David Marshall said in a statement. “These cases show that our surveillance system is working.”

Officials declined to say how many pigs were infected or where the farms were located, other than to note the farms aren't in high-production areas.

Dr. Tom Ray, director of livestock health at the state 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 symptoms in the days preceding the animals’ illness, Ray said.

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. Officials also said there are no documented cases of humans contracting the virus from pigs.

"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 in a statement.

Minnesota, Indiana and Illinois also have had pigs infected with H1N1. Other states have reported the illness in other animals, and officials said it appears in all cases that the animals contracted the virus from humans.

Farmers across North Carolina have been vaccinating pigs for the past three weeks to immunize them against H1N1 and prevent an outbreak of the virus, Marshall said.