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Prevention the key to swine flu protection

Swine influenza cannot be treated once it is in a herd, so finding ways to prevent it from infecting animals is key to keeping pigs healthy this winter.

Influenza is an unstable virus which often mutates into other strains with varying levels of illness associated with them, writes Zoetis’ UK swine veterinary manager Laura Hancox.

If a pig has been exposed to flu before, it doesn’t mean it will be protected against a different strain of the virus.

Like humans and colds, some flu strains give pigs a cough, while some can make them appear lethargic, affect their eating, or even cause abortions and fertility issues.

As it is only possible to treat the symptoms and secondary diseases associated with swine flu, such as bacterial pneumonia, prevention through good farm biosecurity is the best course of action.

This includes putting incoming stock into isolation to stop the virus from entering herds, and ensuring that buildings are properly secure from birds, which can carry the disease.

Vaccination is also an option, but will only provide protection against particular strains.

It is therefore important to ask a veterinarian to sample and identify the strain present on a farm to help with vaccine selection.

Finally, it is worth remembering that flu can enter a pig herd via people, so all staff should receive an annual flu vaccination.

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