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Pandemic H1N1 Spread
in Swine Raises Pandemic Concerns
The samples were taken from pigs shown at the Minnesota State Fair between Aug. 26 and Sept. 1 as part of a university research project
The above comments describing the first reports of swine H1N1 in US pigs are cause for concern. Many other countries have already reported the pandemic H1N1 in swine and most, if not all, have suggested that the swine were infected by humans. The same claim is made for the above infections, which is being reported months after the fact. Since these swine were identified through a university project, the USDA has yet to report a single case of pandemic H1N1 in swine, even though the United States has reported more H1N1 than any country in the world.
These detection / reporting failures do not support the claim that US pork is safe because there are likely to be many unreported outbreaks in the US, and infected pork can cause human infection through cross contamination of uncooked foods or foods that have already been cooked.
Other countries, including Canada, Argentina, Australia, Ireland, Norway, have filed OIE reports, while media reports have described additional outbreaks in Canada, Singapore, Indonesia, and now the United States. In addition, Chile has filed a report on infections in turkeys. Moreover, in many of not most instances, the efficient transmission in swine and turkeys has precluded curing flocks or herds and the birds and animals have been destroyed.
Of course the vast majority of human infections come from other humans because the pandemic H1N1 transmits efficiently in humans also. Explosion of cases has been linked to school openings, and attack rates at some sites are approaching 100%. Thus far genetic drift has been minimal and there have been no reports of shifts due to reassortment. However, as the virus spreads in humans, there will be more selection pressure for drift variants, which may be facilitated by passage of the virus through other species, including swine.
The failure of the USDA to report any outbreaks in the US raises serious surveillance issue. The vast majority of swine infections have been mild, and therefore routine surveillance of asymptomatic herds is required for detection of most infections. The lack of reports of positives identified through such a surveillance program indicates the program is not efficient / effective or the data is being withheld.
The recent explosion of human cases in the US will undoubtedly lead to more swine infections, however, the spread and evolution of pandemic H1N1 in swine and other species has not been reported in the US. Surveillance failures in the US led to the emergence of pandemic H1N1 that was only distantly related to sequences in the swine database. The failure of the USDA to report any swine H1N1 infections indicates that the surveillance deficiencies in the past have not been corrected.
These detection failures increase pandemic concerns.