FEHD releases results of regular influenza virus surveillance in pigs from August to October

     The Centre for Food Safety (CFS) of the Food and Environmental Hygiene Department (FEHD) today (November 16) announced results of the regular influenza virus surveillance programme on pigs conducted by the University of Hong Kong (HKU) for August to mid October at the Sheung Shui Slaughterhouse.

     Among some 1 000 samples tested, no human swine influenza virus (pandemic H1N1) was detected. However, 15 samples 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. The same virus was also found in the last round of surveillance programme for May to July.

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

     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.

     "CFS will 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," the spokesman said.

     According to the World Health Organization, the World Organization for Animal Health and the Food and Agriculture Organization of the United Nations, human swine influenza will 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 have to go through ante-mortem and post-mortem inspections in slaughterhouses. Only pigs that pass the inspections can be supplied to the market and sold for consumption," he added.

     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 spokesman said 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.

Ends/Wednesday, November 16, 2011
Issued at HKT 14:46