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Swine Flu, Food and You

post #1 of 11
Thread Starter 
Swine Flu is a big topic around the country. Because or the term "swine," a lot of people feel are concerned they may become infected by eating pork. I thought I'd start a thread that was clearly and expressly oriented towards swine flu concerns.

"Swine flu" is actually four different virus, only two of which are common, and one of which is dominant. The common types, H1N1 and H3N2 are endemic among farmed pigs in the United States, with H1N1 occuring far more often. Something like 30% of the U.S. pig population shows antibody evidence of previsous infection. Swine flu outbreaks usually occur as the weather becomes cooler -- fall and winter. In the US, as in most countries, outbreaks are treated with anti-flu drugs.

The virus that's causing the current ruckus is H1N1. That's a shame, because it's pretty nasty when it gets to humans. The last big breakout of H1N1 in the US was in the thirties; and IIRC there was a good sized scare in the seventies.

In other threads I wrote that the virus cannot be transmitted from pig to human. That was wrong. I was fudging and got a sort of "you should know better" PM from GoneFishin' -- and he was right.

Setting the record straight, it does happen, but inter-species transmission is rare. It's fair to say that it's a scientific and medical fact, but an epedimiologic and statistical rarity. Maybe even an anomaly. However, the virus almost certainly originated with pigs and the fact that in humans (a) it actually is inter-species, and (b) human infection is relatively rare, means (c) there's very little immunity in human populations. The lack of immunity/resistance is what makes it so dangerous when it does break out among humans. People can get severely ill, and breakouts can be, well, virulent. You hear the term pandemic bandied about -- with cause.

In terms of your own behavior:

It's still safe to be among pigs (of the animal sort), and that the odds against you becoming infected by handling an infected, living pig are extremely slim -- and with normal precautions, nil.

It's as safe as ever to eat pork. Your chances of getting piece cut from an infected animal remain about the same as ever (very small if you buy from a good packer), and getting a piece from an animal which was ever infected also about the same as ever -- around 30%.

160F is the nominal safety temperature for eliminating virus. You may want to kick your internal temperature targets for pork up to meet it -- if for no other reason than to elminate any cause for concern among your family and guests. We can all agree that food should be a source of comfort and not of anxiety.

Otherwise, you know the drll. Stay away from infected people. Observe cough and sneeze etiquette. Wash your hands often enough to make Adrian Monk happy. Keep yourself as healthy as possible otherwise. If you do feel like you're coming down with something -- stay home and take care of yourself. Unfortunately, the normal, seasonal "flu shots," won't touch this thing in terms of either cure or prevention.

For what it's worth, since the current outbreak started getting publicity, lean hog futures have taken a pounding. (ShroomGirl was interested). Most analysts predict a recovery once word gets out that infection is impossible from properly handled pork. Personally, I don't think people are that smart.

Yours in porkritude,
BDL
post #2 of 11
The CDC reported today that "patient zero" (the first known patient with this flu) has been identified as a boy living near a pig farm in Mexico. Presumably, he acquired the disease from the pigs, before passing it along. The boy recovered and is doing well.
post #3 of 11
Thread Starter 
He may have got it from a pig. His may be the first illness in a pandemic -- which would mean that billions of people got it indirectly from the same darn pig. That doesn't mean you're going to get it directly from a pig, that you're in any way likely to get it from one, or that you should modify your behavior (assuming it's reasonable) around pigs.

Out of the billions of human/pig interactions occurring every year, a few (or even a few hundred) infections result. Of those, very few result in even a limited outbreak. And only a very few of those result in something larger. This looks like one of those one a trillion things.

It's something like winning a Mega-Millions lottery with a particularly lousy sense of humor.

BDL
post #4 of 11
woot! go swine flu! gonna get me some cheap pork now. nummy num!
"In those days spirits were brave, the stakes were high, men were real men, women were real women, and small furry creatures from Alpha Centauri were real small furry creatures from Alpha Centauri. "
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"In those days spirits were brave, the stakes were high, men were real men, women were real women, and small furry creatures from Alpha Centauri were real small furry creatures from Alpha Centauri. "
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post #5 of 11
Let's face it, as long as human beings continue to domesticate animals there will always be a chance that these things happen at the frequency that they do.
"If it's chicken, chicken a la king. If it's fish, fish a la king. If it's turkey, fish a la king." -Bender
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"If it's chicken, chicken a la king. If it's fish, fish a la king. If it's turkey, fish a la king." -Bender
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post #6 of 11
Amusingly, perhaps, US pork farmers are lobbying to remove the term "swine flu" from official lingo. That's likely why President Obama has recently referred to it as H1N1.

Thing is, they think it should be called "Mexican flu," which has the Mexicans up in arms, because (among other things) they claim it got to Mexico from a Bangladeshi visiting relatives in Mexico. So the idea seems to be to give the disease a label so we'll all know who's to blame.

This, of course, despite the fact that nobody is to blame.
post #7 of 11
A b it like the Spanish flu in the 1916 (or thereabouts!) pandemic. Some say it originated in China - others that it first started in military camps in the USA and that the troops brought it over to Europe with them - it didn't get named until the King of Spain actually caught the flu!

Who cares WHERE it started, just so long as me and mine don't catch it!
post #8 of 11
Jewish people are campaining to change the name from a byline I read in newspaper. Maybe we should call it IDONTKNOW FLU???:D.:D Funny nobody minded the Irish potato famine.
CHEFED
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CHEFED
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post #9 of 11
Excellent information BDL and I agree, people aren't that smart. I'm currently posting from the livestock barn of a community fair where we are showing our dairy goats and market lambs. One half of the barn is sheep and goats, the other half is market swine. There are 42 swine in this barn. All from local producers. All vaccinated. Doesn't matter. Everyone comes in, makes a right and strolls thru our half of the barn to see the sheep and goats, and NOBODY is venturing into the other half to see the swine. I really feel for the pig raising folks, and while we have a couple of pigs at the ranch we're raising for fall slaughter, you can bet I'm going to be bidding at this Saturday's auction, because from the look of it these fine swine are going to go begging. Outside the auction, I'll have no trouble at all trading one 145 lb. market lamb for TWO 150 pound finished pigs. Better buy another freezer while we're in town.
What foolishness.....
post #10 of 11
We kept a couple of Gloucester Old Spot pigs when I was a girl. I LOVE pigs!
post #11 of 11
Thread Starter 
Good thing they didn't know that down at The Old Bill.

BDL
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