'North American Influenza' Spreads

Most flu cases are linked to visits to Mexico.

Published on: Apr 28, 2009

The World Animal Health body says we should not be calling the present health care concern "swine flu". It is the wrong name. In fact, the WAH recommends calling it "North American Influenza." That is because the influenza currently in North America includes more - including avian and human - components and no pig has been found ill with the disease so far.

"Flu viruses are named after the first animal they were found in," says Purdue University veterinarian Sandy Amass. "This particular strain just happened to be discovered in pigs in 1930, and this is the only reason it's called swine flu. We don't even know if the virus found in humans will infect pigs."

Still, by any name, people are dying from this flu. In Mexico the number is disputed, but anywhere from 20 to 149 people have died from the "North American Influenza."

There has been success in treating the disease. More than 1800 people in Mexico have been hospitalized, but most are now home. In the United States the World Health Organization reports 40 individuals have been stricken. Virtually each and every case has been tied back to a visit to Mexico.

The National Pork Board is advising pork producers to increase the biosecurity plans on their farms. At this time no pigs have been found to be infected or sick with the virus, and the board says enhancing biosecurity will help keep it that way. The concern is having the disease carried into a swine herd by a human.

The North American Influenza has the commodity markets concerned. Corn and soybean prices have dropped over the fear that the influenza might cut livestock feed demand, but both the National Pork Board and USDA are reiterating that pork is safe and will continue to be safe for consumers, and that the virus can not caught from eating pork.