Wednesday, April 29, 2009

Swine Flu Concerns Pork Industry

The outbreak of Swine flu in Mexico and elsewhere is causing some serious concerns for the Pork industry. Though you cannot contract swine flu from consuming pork products, many pork producers have legitimate concerns that consumers may choose other products.

Senator Tom Harkin, Democrat of Iowa, convened a hearing on Tuesday on a subject he described as “the so-called swine flu,” even as a campaign was mounted by farm groups to rename the virus “North American influenza.”

“Swine flu is a misnomer,” said C. Larry Pope, the chief executive of Smithfield Foods, who said he feared panic among consumers. “They need to be concerned about influenza, but not eating pork.”

Researchers say that based on its genetic structure, the new virus is without question a type of swine influenza, derived originally from a strain that lived in pigs. But the experts are still sorting out how long ago it infected pigs and how much it might have mutated when it jumped to humans.

“It’s fair to say that at some point the virus passed through a pig,” said Dr. Paul A. Offit, an infectious disease expert at Children’s Hospital of Philadelphia. “It could have been months; it could have been years ago.”

Even if pigs were the original source of the disease, experts said they did not appear to be playing any role in its transmission now. The virus is passing from person to person, they said, most likely by the spread of respiratory droplets.

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