The Risk of Bird Flu and Influenza Viruses in Pigs: POV in Talks with Ministries for Practical Measures and Monitoring

The Risk of Bird Flu and Influenza Viruses in Pigs: POV in Talks with Ministries for Practical Measures and Monitoring

2023-05-15 10:07:05

POV is in talks with the ministries of LNV and VWS about the advice and the practical elaboration of bird flu (HPAI) and influenza viruses. An important nuance is that it mainly concerns bird flu and not influenza in pigs. One of the recommendations is that keeping both poultry and pigs at one business location is regarded as undesirable and should be avoided.

Pigs are a ‘potential mixing vessel’ for bird flu (HPAI) and influenza viruses. They can cause bird flu to spread to humans. This is stated in a new advice from the Expert Council on Zoonoses that was in the press last week. According to the POV, this advice proposes a number of measures to minimize the risks, such as monitoring.

The risk associated with the combination of influenza and pig stems from the fact that the pig has receptors for both avian and human influenza. The pig can be infected with both viruses. When this happens, there is a risk of RNA being exchanged between the two viruses, which could lead to a new infectious virus with both avian and human characteristics. For this reason, the pig is seen as a ‘potential mixing vessel’. According to experts, the chances of this happening are slim. But if this happens, the consequences can be huge.

Bird flu greatest risk

At first glance, the advice seems far-reaching. It is important to realize that the advice relates to HPAI in pigs and not to influenza in pigs. It must therefore first be demonstrated that there is an HPAI virus in pigs. From this point of view and with a view to public health, the advice is logical according to the POV. The greatest risk is in pigs kept outside, which can come into contact with infected birds. No bird flu has (yet) been detected in pigs in the Netherlands.

Intensification of pig monitoring

The expert council on zoonoses is led by RIVM (Jaap van Dissel). These experts advise the ministries of VWS and LNV, among others. The recommendations include intensifying surveillance among kept pigs. A standard serological surveillance during the slaughter of pigs with outdoor access. Humane monitoring at pig farmers, in the form of the possibility to test for avian flu and attention to biosecurity on pig farms.

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