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First Pig Cases of H1N1--and Mixed Views on the Human Outbreak
3 May 2009 3:19 pm
The first pigs infected with the H1N1 influenza sweeping the globe have been found—but they're a long way from Mexico, the suspected origin of the virus. There’s also some optimism that the human outbreak of the virus is not as threatening as earlier feared.
The H1N1 influenza strain that as of today has caused 898 cases in humans living in 18 countries has finally been isolated from pigs, Canadian officials announced last night. The virus had never been found in pigs until now. A farm in Alberta, Canada, became concerned about sick pigs on 24 April, and the Canadian Food Inspection Agency has since determined that the virus has infected 220 pigs out of a herd of 2200 animals. (An exclusive transcript of a press conference last night with Canadian health officials is after the jump.) The agency suspects that a farm worker who returned to Canada from Mexico on 12 April and went back to work 2 days later infected the pigs. Canadian researchers who did a genetic analysis of the virus in the pig found that it closely matches the H1N1 in humans.
This type of transmission of a swine influenza may be a first, says Christopher Olsen, a swine influenza researcher at the School of Veterinary Medicine at the University of Wisconsin, Madison. "I honestly can’t think of an instance where we saw a swine virus move to humans and move back in this fashion."
There is much concern that pigs infected with this H1N1 might become infected with a dangerous influenza virus from fowl, like the H5N1 that causes avian influenza, leading to a dangerous superbug. But Olsen says this is unlikely on large hog farms. "Most modern swine production facilities are single species. The days of a small farmer having pigs and fowl and other animals all mixing together is really unusual in terms of modern commercial swine. My opinion is modern swine facilities have better biosecurity than old-time farms."
Olsen also stresses that this finding is more a curiosity than a game changer. "This is an interesting event from a scientific perspective, but I don’t think it changes the current public health priorities at all.”
The Canadian finding also dominated a press conference held in Geneva this afternoon by the World Health Organization (WHO). “It is not a big surprise,” said Peter Ben Embarek, a WHO food safety scientist. “We expected at some point since this virus has swine virus elements that we would find possible virus in pigs in the region where the virus is circulating,” said Embarek. Canada has quarantined the farm to prevent further spread.
Embarek emphasized repeatedly that eating pork does not transmit the virus and that it only presents a danger to pig farmers and slaughterhouses.
The farm worker has recovered, Embarek noted. “Also for the animal population, it doesn’t seem to be a very serious disease,” he said.
WHO has not yet raised the threat level from phase 5 to phase 6, which would indicate that the H1N1 outbreak is a pandemic. For that to happen, a country in a region outside of the Americas would have to document sustained spread between humans in a community.
The Mexican Health Minister, José Ángel Córdova, yesterday said that he believed the outbreak in his country was stabilizing. Mexico now has confirmed 506 cases and 19 deaths. But in a press conference held by the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), Anne Schuchat, the interim deputy director for science and public health, cautioned people to keep the champagne bottles corked. “I don’t think we’re out of the woods yet,” said Schuchat. Much is still unknown about the virus’s spread or severity, she stressed, adding that they cannot predict what it will do in the future. “We don’t know if the virus will return in the fall and come back harder than it is right now, and of course that’s one of the big concerns.”
CDC now reports 226 confirmed U.S. cases and 30 hospitalizations, a dramatic increase from yesterday that she said reflects that health officials are catching up with the backlog of samples rather than an increase in the disease's spread or its severity. In part this rise is because along with CDC, many state labs can now conduct confirmatory tests. “We know there are lots of probable cases out there,” said Schuchat. “I expect numbers to jump quite a bit in the next few days.”
Transcript of News Conference - Honourable Leona Aglukkaq, Minister of Health - May 2, 2009 - 6:00 p.m.
DATE/DATE: Saturday, May 2, 2009; 6:00 p.m., EST
LOCATION/ENDROIT: Ottawa, ON
PRINCIPAL(S)/PRINCIPAUX: Honourable Leona Aglukkaq, Minister of
Dr. David Butler-Jones, Chief Public Health Officer
Dr. Danielle Grondin, Acting Assistant Deputy Minister
Dr. Brian Evans, CFIA
Dr. Martine Dubuc, CFIA
Mr. Tim Vail, Director of Communications for Minister Aglukkaq
SUBJECT/SUJET: Minister Aglukkaq holds a news conference/
teleconference regarding the H1N1 flu outbreak
Minister Aglukkaq: Thank you, and thank you all for once again for
being here. First, 34 new cases of H1N1 flu virus were confirmed today.
This brings the number of confirmed cases in Canada to 85. Thankfully all
cases here in Canada remain mild.
It is important that Canadians understand that we are taking a coordinated
approach to dealing with this outbreak Our government is working together
with our partners to respond to the situation at home and internationally.
I also briefed the Prime Minister today and he continues to follow the
Late yesterday afternoon, Prime Minister Harper spoke with Mexican
President Calderone to discuss the H1N1 influenza outbreak. President
Calderone expressed his deep appreciation for Canada’s assistance which
said has been critical to Mexico’s capacity to respond to the situation.
They agreed that Canada and Mexico would continue to work together closely
to mitigate the outbreak. Canada continues to offer support to Mexico
including testing at the National Microbiology Lab and sending two
additional scientists from the Public Health Agency to Mexico.
As the number of confirmed cases continue to grow, it is more important
than ever that we have a clear and coordinated approach to our
communication. As we have seen in the past week, Canada is well positioned
to deal with this outbreak. We have a national plan and we are
I also want to thank everyone here today for helping to share the messages
about infection prevention, hand washing, covering coughs and sneezes with
your arms are simple, effective measures that we can all take.
Thank you and I would now like to turn to Dr. David Butler-Jones, Canada’s
Chief Public Health Officer.
Dr. Butler-Jones: Merci Madame la Ministre, et encore merci a tous
de nous accorder votre attention.
We continue to see mild cases and full recovery in Canada, but our
vigilance and efforts need to continue and our heightened surveillance
will lead to more and more confirmed cases. This is anticipated and we are
prepared to deal with it.
Part of our increased surveillance efforts include the sale of both
prescription and off the shelf flu medications. Over 3,000 pharmacies
across Canada are assisting in this effort. As we previously mentioned,
tracking the first 100 cases of this virus, looking at who it affects and
how is essential to our understanding of the H1N1 flu virus and to the
process of developing a vaccine. Under the direction of Dr. Frank Plummer,
scientist at the National Microbiology Laboratory have started full genome
sequencing of the H1N1 flu virus. Les scientifiques du Laboratoire
national de microbiologie on entrepris le décodage complet du génome. This
research is very important. Many people are asking why the virus seems to
be much more severe in Mexico while in Canada and in other parts of the
world we continue to see mild cases. Genome sequencing of specimens from
both Canada and Mexico will help us to understand if the virus has mutated
which may help us to explain the increased severity of the cases in
Canada has also sent a total now of 7 epidemiologists and lab researchers
to Mexico to assist in their ongoing disease investigation. Some will be
helping with things like lab testing while others will go to say, rural
Mexico to help do some disease detective work, like tracking down patient
histories to find out where, when and how they were exposed. They are also
working with the Mexican Ministry of Health to assist their international
public health efforts.
As the Minister mentioned, information on confirmed cases in Canada will
be updated on a daily basis at 4 o’clock Eastern Daylight Time, and you
can visit the Public Health Agency of Canada website at
www.publichealth.gc.ca for more information.
Now in Canada, we have 34 new cases today of the H1N1 flu virus, 7 in
British Columbia, 7 in Alberta, 2 in Ontario, 1 in Quebec and 17 in Nova
Scotia. This brings the number of confirmed cases in Canada to 85.
Now, while the risk to most Canadians remains low, we all need to practice
basic flu prevention techniques always.
I would now like to turn to my colleague, Dr. Danielle Grondin.
Dr. Grondin: Merci. Aujourd’hui en fait, je vais prendre seulement
quelques minutes pour vous mettre a jour sur la situation au Canada.
Trente quatre nouveau cas d’infection au virus influenza H1N1 ont été
confirmé aujourd’hui au Canada: 7 en Colombie Britannique, 7 en Alberta, 2
en Ontario, 1 au Québec et 17 en Nouvelle Écosse. Cela porte at 85 le
nombre de cas confirmé au Canada. Cette information, c’est à dire le
nombre de cas confirmé au Canada sera publié chaque jour sur le site web
de l’Agence de la santé publique du Canada at 14h00 heures avancé de
Et maintenant je voudrais passer la parole a notre collègue Docteur Evans.
Dr. Evans: Merci Danielle, thank you David, thank you Minister. My
name is Brian Evans. I am the Chief Veterinary Officer for Canada.
As Canada’s animal health regulatory agency, the Canadian Food Inspection
Agency has been playing a supporting role to the Public Health Agency in
terms of both technical expertise and collaboration throughout the H1N1
influenza issue. In addition, since April 24, we have been working closely
with provinces, territories, the swine sector and private veterinarians in
order to enhance the awareness and monitoring of swine herds for any
change of health status or illness.
Through this very surveillance, and close collaboration with public
health authorities the CFIA was informed of a situation involving a
Canadian who recently returned from Mexico on April 12 and undertook to do
work on a swine farm in Alberta on April 14. This person was exhibiting
flu-like symptoms following their return, and may have exposed swine on
the farm to an influenza virus. I can tell you that the traveller has
recovered. I will let my public health colleagues further address that
element of the situation.
With respect to the pigs, there were increased signs of flu-like illness
after the contractor had been on the farm, but these animals as well are
on their way to recovery. Samples from the pigs are being analysed at our
shared Winnipeg facility. We have determined that the virus H1N1 Influenza
A found in these pigs is the virus which is being tracked in the human
population. Further analysis is underway to provide more insight and
contribute to ongoing research efforts.
Seeing influenza infections in pigs is very common, and the transfer of
influenza virus from humans to pigs is known to occur. Pigs are known to
be susceptible to influenza viruses from humans, from other pigs, and from
birds. Fortunately, infected pigs almost alway recover on their own within
a week or so. Whatever virus these pigs were exposed to is behaving in
that exact manner as those we regularly see circulating in North America
and in swine herds in virtually every nation around the world. Normally,
finding influenza in pigs would not generate any specific response from
the CFIA, but obviously the situation is somewhat different, and our
response aligns accordingly. The herd has been placed under quarantine and
we are working with our public health colleagues to determine the most
appropriate next steps to ensure that both public health and animal health
remain paramount and protected. The chance that these pigs could transfer
a virus to a person is remote, nevertheless we are following an
appropriately measured approach.
I want to be clear right now that there is no food safety concerns related
to this finding. Consumption of pork is not considered a route of
transmission to humans. The World Health Organization and other
authorities all agree on this point. These animals are not a food safety
risk. The CFIA is closely collaborating with public health officials to
investigate any other situations where people with flu like illness may
have had contact with swine.
In addition, it is important to note that pigs in Canada are tested and
monitored for influenza viruses on an ongoing basis across the country.
Unfortunately, we have already seen certain trading partners implement
trading restrictions based of the detection of H1N1 influenza virus in
humans. We do not believe such restrictions are warranted. This is not
simply our view, but that of the international science reference bodies
for human health, the World Health Organization, and animal health, the
World Health Organization for Animal Health.
The key here is that influenza virus do not affect the safety of pork,
therefore, we are calling on the international community to ensure that
they base their decisions on facts not fears. This is not the time for the
international community to establish precedence which serve to confuse
rather than inform the pubic. On this matter, I am pleased to report that
Minister Gerry Ritz has had discussions with his counterpart, Secretary
Vilsack in the United States and has been assured that this in no way
changes the trading relationship between our countries.
I want to thank you for the opportunity to share this information with the
public and we will continue to keep Canadians apprised as we move forward.
Thank you and I would like to introduce my colleague Dr. Martine Dubuc.
Dr. Dubuc: Madame la ministre, messieurs les journalistes, l’Agence
canadienne d’inspections des aliments en tant qu’autorité réglementaire
relative à la santé animal collabore avec l’Agence de santé publique due
Canada pour offrir le support scientifique et technique au regard de
l’influenza H1N1. Depuis le 24 avril dernier, l’Agence canadienne a
rehaussée son niveau de surveillance et travail de façon très étroite avec
les provinces, les territoires, l’industrie porcine, et les médecins
vétérinaires en pratique privé afin d’améliorer la surveillance dans les
troupeaux de porc mais également dans l’ensemble de la population animal
Au cours de cette période de surveillance mené en étroite collaboration
avec les autorités de santé publique, l’Agence canadienne d’inspection des
aliments a été informé qu’un canadien revenu du Mexique le 12 avril a
travaillé sur une exploitation porcine en Alberta. L’individu ayant
séjourné récemment au Mexique présentais des symptômes similaire à ceux de
la grippe. Par conséquent, les porcs de cette exploitation agricole
pourrait donc avoir été exposés au virus de l’influenza A H1N1. Cet
individu a eu des symptômes similaires à ceux de la grippe, mais
actuellement est rétablit et nos collègues de la santé publique
expliqueront d’avantage cette aspect de la situation.
Quant au porc de l’exploitation agricole, après la visite de ce
travailleur sur la ferme, ils ont commencer a présenter les symptômes
respiratoires similaire à ceux de la grippe, mais ces porcs sont également
aujourd’hui en voie de rétablissement. Dans le cas de son investigation,
l’Agence canadienne d’inspection des aliments à pris des échantillons
provenant des porcs et les analyses on été fait à notre laboratoire à
Winnipeg. Jusqu’à maintenant, les analyses ont détectées la virus du de
l’influenza A H1N1. Le laboratoire effectue toutefois d’autres tests pour
continuer a améliorer ses connaissance et comprendre la nature de ce
nouveau virus. Il n’est pas anormale ou exceptionnel de dépister le virus
de l’influenza A chez les porcs. Il arrive même parfois que le virus soit
transféré des humains à des porcs. Les porcs peuvent également contracter
le virus de l’influenza A car ils sont aussi vulnérables à ce virus qui
peu être transmit par les humains, par les porcs, mais également les
Les porcs infestés infectés se rétablissent presque toujours d’eux même à
environ une semaine. Le virus donc qui a infecté le troupeau actuellement
en question se comporte de façon similaire à d’autre virus d’influenza A
qui circulent régulièrement en Amérique du nord. Normalement, d’habitude
l’Agence ne prend pas de mesures particulières lorsqu’on constate des cas
d’influenza A dans les élevages de porc. Toutefois, la situation actuelle
est bien sûr bien différente, et c’est pourquoi actuellement, le troupeau
a été placé en quarantaine.
Nous continuons de collaborer avec nos collègues de la santé publique en
vue de définir les mesures appropriés a prendre pour protéger la santé
publique et la santé animale. Les risques que ces porcs transmettes le
virus à des personnes actuellement sont très faibles. Néanmoins, nous
poursuivons et suivons une approche prudente et approprié.
Je veut préciser aussi clairement que cette situation ne pose aucun danger
pour la salubrité des aliments. La consommation de porc n’est pas
considérée comme une voie de transmission du virus. L’Organisation mondial
de la santé et d’autres responsables sont unanimes sur ce fait. Encore une
fois, ces animaux ne constituent pas un risque pour la salubrité des
L’Agence canadienne d’inspection des aliments collabore étroitement avec
les responsables de la santé publique pour enquêter sur d’autres
situations ou des gens manifestant des symptômes semblables à ceux de la
grippe pourraient avoir été en contact avec des porcs.
Il est important de noté que les porcs au Canada sont également
régulièrement testés et subissent des épreuves de dépistages de
l’influenza partout au Canada. Malheureusement, actuellement, certains de
nos partenaires commerciaux ont déjà imposés des restrictions commerciales
liées au virus influenza A H1N1. Nous ne croyons pas que ces restrictions
soient justifiés. Ce point de vu est partagé par des organismes
internationaux de référence scientifique dans le domaine autant de la
santé humaine que la santé animal. Le point a retenir est que les virus de
l’influenza n’ont aucune incidence sur la salubrité du porc, et par
conséquent, nous demandons à nos partenaires commerciaux fondé leur
décision sur les faits et non la peur.
Aujourd’hui le Ministre Ritz a parlé au secrétaire américain de
l’agriculture, Monsieur Tom Vilsack pour informer nos voisin américain de
la situation. Il s’est assuré que les producteurs de porc canadiens
continuerons d’avoir accès au marché américain.
J’aimerais vous remercier de nous avoir donné aujourd’hui cette occasion
de partagé avec vous ces renseignement avec le publique, et nous
continueront de tenir les canadiens de tout faits nouveaux sur cette
Mr. Vail: And now we are ready for your questions. Please limit your
questions to one and one follow-up. Si vous avez des questions juste poser
deux, s’il vous plaît.
Question: Brian with CFRB, Toronto, CJD, Montreal. You said that for
several days that eating pork is not a problem. You said today that
transmission swine to human is not a problem, but you have to realize that
this will scare people, freak them out a little bit when they hear that
pigs got it from humans even if it may be sound normal to you, to the
average person they may not know that. So how do you reassure them today
that well it won’t happen the other way, that it’s for greater concern?
Dr. Butler-Jones: Certainly, two things about that I guess, firstly
as it’s been said, we do see from time to time and this is something that
people would not know that in fact human viruses can be spread to pig. We
do see that from time to time. Occasionally we do see swine viruses in
humans, but again maybe once a year in Canada. So it’s not a common event,
but it does occur. And so we would expect to actually see this at some
point in the whole process with a new human virus.
In the situation of sort of reassurance, one of the reasons for watching
this very closely is because of the potential for passing the virus back
from pigs to humans. And so that’s something we need to be very careful
about. That’s part of the reason why the farm is quarantined, that’s why
there is a close collaboration between public health and CFIA. The point
being though, we are not seeing this virus anywhere else in Canada in
pigs. We do not see this as a risk passing and certainly in terms of the
eating of pork that is not a problem. And if you ate it before, there is
absolutely no reason not to eat it today.
Dr. Evans: Thank you David and we appreciate the question and I would
add to that again, just to re-emphasize we live in a one health, one world
reality. Bacteria, viruses, pathogens, they are not overly selective to
any species if they can find a way to multiply. And so as David indicated
this finding in itself is not an outstanding or an unusual event even
specific to this particular virus circumstance. I think it’s also
important for people to bear in mind the reality again that what we are
dealing with here is a fairly unique circumstance having had the exposure
in Mexico directly with the swine heard. And we can assure that across the
board in Canada since the 24th of April, farmers across this country are
re-enforcing bio security guidelines. There has been a lot of publicity
around issues of people how they should go on to farms, how they come off
of farms being distributed by both veterinary practitioners and with
producers through the industry. A lot of information out there, of how
producers out there can make sure that their premises are in fact well
secured from any further exposure.
As we have indicated in this particular farm, this is a vertically
integrated farm, it has piglets that move through this farm, there is no
sales off this farm to any other farm in Canada. There are no purchases
onto this farm from any other farm in Canada. So again we believe that the
containment that is place, we are dealing with is a very unique event. In
all fairness, I want to give full credit to the veterinary profession and
to the Province of Alberta for what I think was outstanding early
detective work, early detection and early reporting which we all
collectively agree as how we will manage on a go forward basis.
Question: As far, you said there is a concern that you want to
monitor the potential for this to switch back and forth. Is that a concern
that once it passes from human back into pigs then it mutates and becomes
more difficult for you to track and deal with it. You’ve got 2 different
strains out there in the human population?
Dr. Butler-Jones: So far basically what we are seeing in the pig is
the same strain as we see in the humans. The concern is that if it’s
circulating in a pig herd that any other humans come onto the farm might
be exposed and be at risk, so we want to protect them against that.
At anytime, not just in the situation but on anywhere we know that this is
a very, very adaptive virus that can at any point recombine with a mix of
human, pig, or bird gene material. And so that’s something we are
constantly watching for. It’s not a common event that you see that where
it’s adapted to humans. I mean the last time that we saw a virus spread
this easily, a new influenza virus different from anything we’ve seen was
in the 1960's really, so it is, it’s not common but it’s unpredictable. So
that’s why we watch it very carefully.
Question: Julie Van Nussen, CBC. This is very confusing, all of it.
I don’t get most of it. But the point is, if people can have this virus to
pigs, why can’t pigs pass it back to people?
Dr. Butler-Jones: Well they could, that’s why on this farm, because
it’s a human virus, so the difference, what you have to think about this
virus which is essentially a human virus spreading from person to person
that can in this case we’ve shown, in fact a herd of pigs. Whether it can
move from pig herd to other pig herds, that we don’t know yet, but it’s an
isolated case on this farm. That does not mean that other viruses are
transferring from pigs to human. So in this specific instance we know it’s
a human virus that can spread. It’s in a pig so if it came back, if some
other human handled that pig while it was ill, or was, droplets got them
in their mouth or eyes then potentially that person could infected from
that pig with this virus which is a human virus. So that’s what we need to
be focussed on.
Dr. Evans: I would just add to that, thank you for the question
again, I would just add to that, that David indicated at this point an
time the issue of being a human virus having been introduced to the pigs
and the characterization of this virus shows that it is still that virus.
There has been no adaptation identified through the transfer from human to
the pigs at this time. So it doesn’t change its expression in humans
subsequent to that. What is really important I think also to understand,
then again I think this is where Canada benefits over so many other
countries is the fact that we have the Winnipeg lab facility with the
co-location of both the public health and animal health components of
this. And the research that’s already been initiated there will actually
move into these areas to determine whether this virus can be spread from
swine to other swine, whether this virus can be adapted to birds, whether
it can be adapted to horses, other species that do circulate influenza
viruses. That’s part of the research that is being done and we are
uniquely positioned in Canada in the Winnipeg facility.
Question: So your saying you don’t know a lot about this is all
working, so what makes you think that people would be convinced that it’s
safe to eat pork?
Dr. Evans: Well again, I think I come back to the fact that influenza
viruses has been reported, has circulated in swine populations on an
ongoing basis for many, many decades. It’s been well researched, by
studies, by world organizations, by the Centre for Disease Control in
Atlanta, other organizations that have all unanimously come to the
conclusion that consumption of pork is not a risk factor for transmission
of influenza virus from swine to human.
Question: This strain though H1N1 this has been found in pigs
Dr. Evans No we are saying that this particular virus based on what
we are seeing clinical expression at this point and time, the introduction
of the virus into the pig herd, the pigs have responded in the same way
that they have responded to every other swine virus, or circulating
influenza virus. Mild respiratory signs, mild appetite loss, mild fever
with recovery within the expected time frame. So the early indications are
this virus does not affect pigs in any way differently. We will be doing
more work in that area obviously.
But also from the pork perspective I think people have to bare in mind
that pigs that are submitted to slaughter in Canada as in many countries
are subjected to clinical inspection on arrival to verify health status.
Pigs that are notably distressed are not illegible to be slaughtered and
as they go through the slaughter process there is veterinary inspection
that looks issues and with the removal of lungs and those tissues, if
there is any evidence of pneumonia or abscesses or that sort of thing,
those pigs do not get into the feed supply.
Question: Once those pigs are well, will they be okay to eat. Will
you sell them to eat?
Dr. Evans: As I said earlier there has no decision taken at this time
in terms of where we will go beyond the quarantine that we are currently
Question: If you are so sure they are going to be okay, why can’t
you just sell them for people to eat?
Dr. Evans Again I think there are other factors that we have to
consider and this beyond simply the animal health and food safety factors.
We have to look at the animal welfare issue of this particular farm and
their ability to hold pigs to market weight with restrictions that are in
place. We have to look at the impact on the producer, we have to look also
at also in the circumstances David had said. We want to get a better
understanding with this virus having been introduced to pigs is an
opportunity over time that this virus could recombine or resort. Those
sort of considerations would also be part of a go forward decision.
Question: But would you eat those pigs?
Dr. Evans Can we keep it to just one....
Question: I want to know, I want to know. You need to clear this up.
Those pigs are sick, you are treating them. They are going to get better.
You are telling us it’s okay to eat pork, I just want to know would you
eat those pigs once they are better?
Dr. Evans As I’ve indicated these pigs are responding well, they are
regaining their clinical health without treatment as pigs would do and my
estimation on that is this pig situation and the time that has passed and
with all the factors at play, I would have no issue eating pork from these
pigs. That’s my personal position. But again I think we have to be able to
go further than my personal position and demonstrate to the Canadian
public and the global public that we are treating this thing with due
respect for all factors that have to be considered.
Question: Steve Reddie from the Canadian Press. I wonder if you
could give some more information about the particular herd that was
affected, the size of the herd, when they started to show signs of the
flu, whether other people on that farm decided that when that farm hand
got sick and whether they have tested positive for the swine flu
Dr. Evans I’ll try to make sure Steve that I’ve got all of those
questions captured to the best of my ability. As we’ve indicated clinical,
the exposure on the farm took place on the 14th of April, the issue of
their change in health status occurred around the 24th, 25th of April,
with subsequent recovery in the 5 days that followed from that. The
operation itself, as I’ve indicated is what we call farrow to finish, so
this breeder has his own sows on the farm which have young pigs which he
keeps on the farm, grows them out and their only exit from the farm on a
rotational basis as the young pigs come through the older pigs meet market
weight, and they are shipped out for slaughter as their end destination.
The size of the operation, it has currently on the farm about 220 sows and
piglets and 1,800 growing pigs that are in various stages of their growth.
Dr. Butler-Jones: One other person on the farm had symptoms, has
been tested, we don’t have the results of the test. Mild illness and
recovering as we’ve seen elsewhere. So even if it is this virus that seems
to be a continuing pattern.
Question: What about, I guess the assumption was always that the
virus may have started in pigs and then transmitted to humans and then
humans started passing it on each other as a humans virus. Does that, does
all this change your assumption at all about whether it did really started
in pigs way back when and then?
Dr. Butler-Jones What we are learning all the time, as I’ve said
before, the influenza virus is very adaptive, very innovative. Again the
question is, it’s not a pig virus because we are not seeing it circulating
in pigs. So it’s a recombination of a number of sort of the North American
strain that’s been circulating for a long time, your Asian strain that we
have not seen circulating in North America. So where that came from and
how it adapted into humans, we haven’t even found this virus previously in
pigs other than in this situation where it came from a human, as a human
So we still have a lot to learn about this, but I wouldn’t presume, I mean
it’s a swine in terms of it’s, the components of the virus are largely
from pigs originally. But did it mutate in a pig or did it mutate in a
human combined with some other elements of a human that allowed to adapt,
that we don’t know. We may never know, but certainly it’s shown itself
with it’s ability to be a human virus and that’s really what we are
dealing with at this point and more will come as we understand the virus
Question: Hi, Sharon Kirky with CanWest News. You talked about the
size of the operation, can you tell us how many pigs are actually infected
with the virus?
Dr. Evans: Again the information that we currently have is there were
no deaths on the farm associated on the pig side and about 10% of the pigs
showed some indications of what we would normally attribute to flu-like
Question: And is this the first known case in the world of the
countries that are experiencing outbreak of human swine influenza where
you’ve seen the flu infect a pig?
Dr. Evans: That’s true, this is the first detection that has been
made and I think that’s reflective of the two primary issues. One is the
circumstance of exposure that took place. I know other countries are
actively looking and I come back to the fact that I think Canada is
probably strategically advantaged in this way again because of the
co-location of the Winnipeg lab. We are probable one of the first
countries that were able to extrapolate a diagnostic test that had been
developed on the human side to the pigs circumstances. In most other
countries in the world you would not that close animal health, public
health collaboration, so I think we have diagnostic tools currently which
other countries may not be applying to their surveillance program. And I
think it’s Canada part of our leadership is, we will be undertaking to
share those tools to help countries in their effort as well.
Question: And the last question. Are you concerned that you, you
know what might happen here is you have countries saying they are going to
refuse to buy our pork products because of this. How do you address that?
Dr. Evans: Well again even in advance of the finding of the human
transfer to pigs, we have started to see some of that reaction in certain
countries. I think we respond to it in several ways. Many of those
countries took those positions in advance of having found human cases
themselves. You know I think part of that is the sobering effect of now
saying well we have the same circumstance in our country. Are we messaging
in the appropriate way? And so, what’s our rationale for taking this
decision based on science and human health protection and consumer
interests or were there other factors there?. So we are hopeful that that
message will continue to sink in.
At the same time we will continue to work with the world organizations
both at WHO and through the world organization for animal health the OIE
to make sure that information is shared with all countries on a
transparent and open basis of the work that we have done. I think Canada
has had over the past number of years between the challenges we’ve had
with avian influenza, BSE circumstance. I think we’ve built up a very
strong credibility around the world for how we respond when diseases are
found. I think that stands us in good stead. The countries based on the
fact that we have been able to demonstrate that this is contained at this
point to a single farm. No outlying contacts. I think people viewing that
information that understand the dynamics of this virus will come to the
conclusion, in fact, that we’ve done what the world community would expect
us to do, and that we expect that they will recognize it accordingly.
Question: Are you considering slaughtering the pigs?
Mr. Vail: I’m sorry that’s going to have to conclude our press
conference today, thank you very much.