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HK: Results of regular influenza virus surveillance in pigs from May to July released

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  • HK: Results of regular influenza virus surveillance in pigs from May to July released

    Hong Kong (HKSAR) - The Centre for Food Safety (CFS) of the Food and Environmental Hygiene Department (FEHD) today (August 26) announced results of the regular influenza virus surveillance programme on pigs conducted by the University of Hong Kong (HKU) for May to July at the Sheung Shui Slaughterhouse. Among some 1,300 samples tested, no human swine influenza virus (pandemic H1N1) was detected. However, 16 samples taken in June and July were found to contain a virus that was essentially a swine influenza H3N2 virus but had picked up some genes of human swine influenza virus.

    A spokesman for the CFS said, "A case of swine influenza H1N1 virus carrying the genes of the human swine influenza virus was also found in the surveillance programme early last year.

    There have been reports from many parts of the world showing similar findings."

    According to Professor JSM Peiris, the HKU expert in charge of the surveillance programme, it is unlikely that this swine influenza H3N2 virus, which carried the genes of the human swine influenza virus, will cause any major human health risk or problems in food safety.

    The spokesman said, "Given the fact that the human swine influenza virus has spread worldwide in humans and pigs have also been infected by this virus, the recent finding is not a cause for surprise. HKU is conducting further tests to learn more about this particular strain.

    "The CFS would continue to monitor reports of the HKU surveillance programme and make announcements on a regular basis. Results will be announced immediately if there are significant public health impacts."

    Under the regular influenza virus surveillance programme for pigs, the CFS has been helping HKU researchers to collect blood and tracheal and nasal swabs from pigs at the Sheung Shui Slaughterhouse twice a month to monitor influenza virus activity in pigs.

    According to the World Health Organization, the World Organisation for Animal Health and the Food and Agriculture Organization of the United Nations, human swine influenza would not be contracted by consuming pork and pork products that are handled properly and thoroughly cooked.

    Members of the public are advised that it is safe to eat pork and pork products that are cooked to an internal temperature of 70 degrees Celsius or above.

    The CFS spokesman said that all imported live pigs from the Mainland come from registered farms and are accompanied with animal health certificates issued by the Mainland authorities.

    "The FEHD inspects the certificates and health of the imported pigs at the boundary control points.

    Both imported and local pigs also have to go through ante-mortem and post-mortem inspections in the slaughterhouses. Only pigs that pass the inspections can be supplied to the market and sold for consumption," he said.

    Apart from the enhanced inspection of imported live pigs, the FEHD has reminded slaughterhouse staff and people who might be in contact with live pigs to pay attention to personal hygiene and to wear masks and appropriate protective gear at work.

    The CFS has been keeping close liaison with the Mainland authorities over any abnormal situation concerning Mainland farms supplying live pigs to Hong Kong, and farm inspection would be stepped up when necessary, the spokesman added.

    In addition, the Agriculture, Fisheries and Conservation Department also closely monitors the health situation of pigs in Hong Kong and regularly reminds local pig farmers to maintain good farm and personal hygiene and report to the Department any abnormality in farms.

    Source: HKSAR Government