UN acts to protect industry over "swine flu" allegations

The UN has stepped in to shield the international pig industry from allegations over “swine flu”, mobilising a team of experts to investigate and confirm that there is no direct link between the new H1N1 virus and pigs.

The Food and Agriculture Organisation (FAO) and World Organisation for Animal Health (OIE) have also increased animal disease surveillance to ensure response readiness should the new virus spread to the pig population.

The FAO requested that its technical staff around the world are on high alert and immediately report any influenza-like illness in swine stocks.

At present, transmission seems to be occurring solely from humans to humans and there is no evidence that the new strain of influenza A virus entered the human population directly from pigs. The UN agency is planning further analysis to gain a better insight into the situation.

“There is no evidence of a threat to the food chain; at this stage it is a human crisis and not an animal crisis, but we have to be alerted and prepared,” said FAO Chief Veterinary Officer Joseph Domenech.

“The first actions FAO and others must take are to ascertain if the new strain is circulating in pigs, establish if there are any direct linkages between the illness in the human population and animals and explain how this new virus has obtained genetic materials from human, bird and pig influenza strains.”

Following intense pressure from animal health experts and the international pig industry, the World Health Organisation (WHO) has finally agreed to drop the phrase 'swine flu' when referring to the new H1N1 virus.

Processors were concerned about the impact that referring to the outbreak as 'swine flu' would have on the reputation of pork. Although they have welcomed the change in name, many say that it may have come to late, with US pigmeat prices already plummeting following import bans in Russia and Asia.

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