Pigs can be infected with their own influenza viruses (called swine influenza) that are usually different from human flu viruses. While rare, influenza can spread from pigs to people and from people to pigs. When people get swine flu viruses, it’s usually after contact with pigs. This has happened in different settings, including fairs. The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) recommends people take the following actions to help prevent the spread of flu between pigs and people.
CDC Recommendations for People with High Risk Factors:
Anyone who is at high risk of serious flu complications planning to attend a setting where pigs will be present should avoid pigs and swine barns.
People who are at high risk of serious flu complications include children younger than 5 years, people 65 years and older, pregnant women, and people with certain long-term health conditions (like asthma and other lung disease, diabetes, heart disease, weakened immune systems, and neurological or neurodevelopmental conditions).
CDC Recommendations for People Not at High Risk:
Don’t take food or drink into pig areas; don’t eat, drink or put anything in your mouth in pig areas.
Don’t take toys, pacifiers, cups, baby bottles, strollers, or similar items into pig areas.
Avoid close contact with pigs that look or act ill.
Take protective measures if you must come in contact with pigs that are known or suspected to be sick. This includes minimizing contact with pigs and wearing personal protective equipment like protective clothing, gloves and masks that cover your mouth and nose when contact is required.
Wash your hands often with soap and running water before and after exposure to pigs. If soap and water are not available, use an alcohol-based hand rub.
To further reduce the risk of infection, minimize contact with pigs in the pig barn and arenas.
Watch your pig (if you have one) for illness. Call a veterinarian if you suspect illness.
Avoid contact with pigs if you have flu symptoms. Wait to have contact with pigs until 7 days after your illness started or until you have been without fever for 24 hours without the use of fever-reducing medications, whichever is longer. If you must have contact with pigs while you are sick, take the protective actions listed above.
People with high risk factors who develop flu symptoms should call a health care provider. Tell them about your high risk factor and any exposure to pigs or swine barns you’ve had recently. Human seasonal flu vaccine will not protect against commonly circulating swine influenza viruses, but prescription influenza antiviral drugs can treat infections with these viruses in people.