Alta. hogs’ flu is human strain: CFIA

The Canadian Food Inspection Agency has confirmed that the influenza virus found in hogs at a now-quarantined farm in central Alberta is the novel human strain of the H1N1 flu.

The situation on the Alberta farm has been “isolated and contained,” federal Agriculture Minister Gerry Ritz and U.S. Agriculture Secretary Tom Vilsack said in a joint release Tuesday.

According to Vilsack in a separate release last Saturday, a Canadian carpenter, who had been in Mexico and who upon return April 12 showed flu-like symptoms, came to work on the Alberta farm on April 14, after which the family and swine on the farm became ill.

“It is highly probable that the pigs were exposed to the virus from a Canadian who had recently returned from Mexico and had been exhibiting flu-like symptoms,” the CFIA said in a statement Saturday.

“Signs of illness were subsequently observed in the pigs. The individual has recovered and all of the pigs are recovering or have recovered.”

The virus is known to spread from person to person but the odds of hogs being able to transfer this novel strain of flu back to people is remote, CFIA said on the weekend.

As of Tuesday, the H1N1 strain of influenza A is confirmed to have sickened 165 people in eight Canadian provinces, mostly in Nova Scotia, British Columbia, Ontario and Alberta.

Worldwide, the World Health Organization (WHO) reports the virus has sickened 1,490 people in 21 countries, mostly in Mexico, the U.S. and Canada, as of Tuesday. Of those cases, 29 people in Mexico and one person in the U.S. are confirmed to have died.

The WHO said it still advises “no restriction of regular travel or closure of borders.” There is no risk of infection from this virus from consumption of “well-cooked” pork and pork products, the WHO added.

The WHO at the end of April said it would no longer use the term “swine flu” to describe the novel strain of H1N1.

In what appeared to be a bid to calm hog producers’ fears that the U.S. might follow the lead of several other countries and shut its ports and borders to Canadian pork, Vilsack said Tuesday that the U.S. government is “confident that Canadian authorities are taking all necessary steps to protect the public and the pork industry.

“The international scientific community agrees that pork is safe,” Vilsack said. “We are urging all countries to remove any restrictions on the movement of pork that are not based on sound science. A strong and respectful relationship is vital for the pork industry in both Canada and the U.S.”

“This is a great example of both countries rejecting protectionism and respecting international agreements to keep safe trade moving,” Ritz said in the same release Tuesday.

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