EU - Novel Influenza A (H1N1) (en)

Monday 15 June 2009

The present influenza A(H1N1) is a new virus subtype of influenza A (H1N1) viruses that spreads from human to human and is causing a human influenza pandemic in accordance with the declaration made by the WHO on 11 June 2009.

The novel virus contains gene segments from pig, bird and human influenza viruses in a combination that has never been observed before. Apart from humans, the virus has also infected pigs in one pig herd in Canada. So far no similar incidents have been reported in Europe. In contrast, the classical swine influenza (SI) viruses circulate widely in many pig populations around the world, including the EU. In relation to these viruses, a monitoring programme has been ongoing under an EU research programme in the context of research on influenza viruses.

There is no evidence suggesting that the novel virus behaves in pigs in a different way from the other classical influenza viruses of pigs, that only cause a mild respiratory disease.

Swine influenza is not a food borne zoonosis. Furthermore, EU hygiene requirements for the slaughter of pigs do not allow that sick animals are transported to the slaughterhouse. The obligation to have veterinary inspection in slaughterhouses for the assessment of the clinical conditions of the animals so that only healthy animals are slaughtered (ante-mortem inspection) and the controls made on the carcasses for the assessment of any pathological lesion along the slaughter line (post-mortem inspection) carried out in accordance with EU rules give additional guarantees that pigs displaying clinical/pathological signs are excluded from entering the food chain.

The statements made by the OIE/WHO/FAO/ WTO/ ECDC/ EFSA adequately address the issue of safety of pork and pork products for human consumption in relation to influenza.

Apart from swine, so far no other animal species has shown to be susceptible to the novel influenza virus in nature.

The Veterinary Laboratory Agency, Weybridge, UK (Community Reference Laboratory for Avian Influenza) has been assigned by the Commission to carry out in collaboration with other EU laboratories pig infection studies with the influenza A(H1N1) virus. These aim at better understanding the role of the pig in the epidemiology of the current epidemic in humans. Preliminary results of these studies are available under:

A brainstorming meeting of scientists, risk assessors and risk managers on the influenza A(H1N1) at the human animal interface organised by the Commission with the support of ECDC and EFSA took place on 9 June 2009 in Brussels. It focused on the potential risks posed by that virus at the interface between humans and animals. Scientists from the public health, animal health and food safety field from the EU, USA, Canada and Russia attended the meeting.

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