With national attention focused on the avian flu threat, other infections that could be transmitted from animals to people are also coming under scrutiny. People with work exposure to pigs, such as farmers, veterinarians and meat processing workers, are at heightened risk of contracting swine influenza, according to a study in the Jan. 1 issue of Clinical Infectious Diseases, now available online.
Pigs’ physical makeup allows them to contract—and to spread—influenza viruses to and from other species, such as humans and birds. Due to their susceptibility to influenza virus infections from other species, pigs can also serve as “mixing vessel hosts” that can produce new influenza virus strains that could pose a risk to human health.
In Iowa, the state with the highest swine production, researchers examined farmers, veterinarians, meat processing workers and a control group of people who had no occupational contact with pigs. They discovered that, of the four groups, farmers were most likely to be seropositive—that is, to have antibodies in their blood against swine influenza, indicating previous infection with the virus. Veterinarians also had increased odds of seropositivity. Meat processing workers had elevated antibody levels as well, though the odds were not as high, perhaps due to the workers’ limited exposure to live pigs.
Steve Baragona | EurekAlert!
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