Tests show H1N1 flu easing in Canada hog herd

Fri May 29, 2009 5:09pm EDT
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By Rod Nickel

SASKATOON, Saskatchewan (Reuters) - The number of positive or suspicious tests for H1N1 flu in a quarantined herd of pigs in Western Canada has dropped, but food safety officials will test the animals at least once more before considering lifting restrictions.

The Canadian Food Inspection Agency tested the pigs with nasal swabs on May 14 and again last week and found the number of positive or suspicious tests for H1N1 flu had dropped to 13 from 19.

"It's headed in the right direction, but we still haven't had a completely negative herd test," said Dr. Jim Clark, national manager of disease control for the CFIA.

The next round of tests comes on Monday. If the results from the lab later in the week are negative, the CFIA and other government health agencies will consider lifting the quarantine, Clark said.

The CFIA quarantined the 2,200-hog farm in the western province of Alberta on April 28. Some of the animals apparently caught the H1N1 virus from a farm worker who had been to Mexico, where the outbreak began.

The fact that the virus has not been detected anywhere else in the Canadian hog industry suggests either it doesn't generate unusual symptoms or that human contact with swine is limited, Clark said.

None of the farm's pigs has died because of the H1N1 virus, Clark said.

However, the CFIA may consider culling the entire herd if the farmer's patience for testing runs out before the herd is confirmed free of the virus, Clark said.   Continued...