WESTERN PRODUCER — Hog farmers seldom think about it, but the flu is a disease risk for which protection is easy and cheap.
“Getting your flu shot is a three-way win,” Jenelle Hamblin, manager of swine health with the Manitoba Pork Council, said at the organization’s Niverville regional meeting Nov. 1.
“You’re protecting yourself. You’re protecting the general population. You’re also protecting your pigs.”
Influenza is both a human and a pig disease. It is capable of jumping the species barrier and frequently does.
Last year a number of people in Manitoba were found to be ill with swine forms of flu, highlighting a risk that is often overlooked.
Flu can be a herd management problem in a number of ways. When barn managers and staff get sick and need to miss days of work, taking care of the animals can become a challenge, especially in times of labour shortages.
Sick animals pose their own management challenges.
The disease can also mutate as it hops between humans and animals, raising new risks.
“When you have pigs and people, strains can mix and mingle and you end up with a new strain,” said Hamblin.
The Manitoba hog industry has been grappling with porcine epidemic diarrhea virus and Seneca Valley virus and is always on the lookout for other diseases that could infect pigs and workers. African swine fever is a threat the industry has spent years preparing to face some time in the future.
Influenza is often forgotten about, but protecting against it is relatively easy with flu shots available in most communities.