The World Organisation for Animal Health (OIE) has issued advice on theA/H1N1 swine influenza outbreak, particularly in relation to theinternational trade of pigs.
Information available to the OIE does not indicate, at this time, that the influenza outbreak currently occurring in the United States and Mexico was preceded by an outbreak of swine influenza.
Within a few days, scientific investigations that are currently under way should indicate if the virus circulating in humans is capable of infecting animal species, such as pigs, chickens and horses.
Given there is no case of infection in animals confirmed in the zones where cases of human infection have been detected, it is not necessary to introduce specific measures for international trade in swine or their products nor to consider that consumers of pork products are at risk of infection.
The following update, sent to the National Delegates of the OIE’s 174 Member Countries and Territories, summarises the OIE position regarding the safety of international trade in the context of the current influenza situation.
Bernard Vallat, director general of the OIE, wrote: “The OIE is of the view that as this virus has not, for the moment, been isolated in pigs or other animals, it is not appropriate to call it “swine influenza”. The OIE recommends that the virus be referred to as “North American influenza”, in keeping with the naming of other outbreaks of influenza in the human population. Nonetheless, this emerging disease is genetically linked, amongst others, with H1N1 swine influenza and the OIE is calling for scientific research to be started with urgency to assist in clarifying the sources and the risks presented by this virus to veterinary public health and to the different animal species (pigs, poultry and horses).
“Notwithstanding that this human disease is not simply swine influenza, you would be aware that swine influenza is not an OIE listed disease and there is currently no justification in the OIE Terrestrial Animal Health Standards Code for the imposition of trade measures on the importation of pigs or their products.
“To date there is no evidence that the virus is transmitted by food and influenza A viruses are generally not heat resistant.
“In the event that the virus associated with the current human disease is shown to be circulating in animals in zones of countries that have reported human cases of infection, this should be reported to the OIE as an emerging disease. If appropriate, the OIE will develop official recommendations to prevent and control any identified risks to public health and animal health from livestock production and trade.
“Please note that an importing country has the right at any time to contact an exporting country and to conduct an inspection or audit of the situation as relevant to the importation of animals or animal products (Section 5. Trade measures, import/export procedures and veterinary certification).
“Please see, for information, my public statement on this issue, which may be viewed at: http://www.oie.int/eng/press/en_090427.htm “