Swine workers at increased risk for catching influenza viruses from pigs

IOWA - Swine industry workers have a good chance of catching swine influenza, but health officials said farmers aren't in any immediate danger and pork is safe to eat.

A University of Iowa College of Public Health research project recently studied the spread of influenza - an acute, contagious disease caused by viruses and characterized by inflammation of the respiratory tract, fever and muscular pain - between humans and hogs.

With avian flu blamed for numerous deaths overseas, researchers thought it was time to study swine influenza more closely. Iowa is the top swine producer in the nation.

The study, in cooperation with Iowa State University and the University of Wisconsin, found farmers who regularly work with hogs are 35.3 times more likely to catch swine influenza than people who don't. Other groups tested include veterinarians and meatpackers, which were 17.8 and 6.5 times more at risk, respectively.

Blood tests performed on the ag-related groups, and a control group that had no contact with pigs, concluded farmers had the highest level of antibodies to fight different forms of swine influenza. This indicates past infections.

Kendall Myers, a doctoral candidate in occupational and environmental health at the U of I, was the lead researcher for the project. She said Iowa is the perfect place for the study since 16.4 million swine reside in the state at any one time on 10,200 farms.

Source: WCFC
calendar icon 13 February 2006
clock icon 2 minute read
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