Three pigs may be the first in the U.S. with swine flu

Three pigs on exhibit at the Minnesota State Fair’s swine barn this year may have had H1N1…potentially marking the first time that the pandemic flu has been found in U.S. hogs.

It’s not clear what became of the pigs — they may have been slaughtered after the fair and sent into the food chain — but health officials downplayed any dangers from the sick pigs.

“This is a people virus,” said Jeff Bender, co-director of the University of Minnesota Center for Animal Health and Food Safety. “A person cannot get flu from eating pork, or pork products.”

Still, the timing couldn’t be worse for the pork industry, which has struggled this year to make a profit. As news broke Friday that the U.S. Department of Agriculture and the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) were conducting tests, the National Pork Producers issued an e-mail reiterating that pork is safe to eat…

The suspect pigs were discovered by researchers carrying out a CDC project studying the spread of flu viruses at places where people and pigs come into close contact — such as state fairs. The pigs, from three separate farms, appeared healthy at the time samples were taken, but preliminary tests at the U of M this week found evidence that they might have had H1N1.

I’ll let my wife know that pork prices should be coming down before we go grocery shopping next weekend.

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