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Pig meat industry on alert over swine flu -

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Pig meat industry on alert over swine flu

The World Today - Thursday, 7 May , 2009 12:38:00

Reporter: Di Bain

PETER CAVE: Pig farming practices have changed in recent years with some farms housing thousands of
the animals in a small space.

It's a billion-dollar business in Australia and quarantine measures are some of the strictest in
the world.

But the United Nations now says that farmers who mix their pigs and their chickens could be
contributing to the spread and creation of infectious diseases like swine flu.

Di Bain reports.

DI BAIN: These days when a pig sneezes it seems the pig meat industry catches a cold.

The so-called swine flu outbreak has rocked the sector. Demand for pig meat products is falling and
there's rising concerns large pig farms could be vulnerable to an outbreak of disease.

The UN's chief veterinary officer Joseph Domenech says some farming practices could contribute to
the creation and spread of infectious diseases.

JOSEPH DOMENECH: Concentration of a lot of farms big and middle sized farms and mixed with other
type of farming systems, in that case yes, concentration of pig population or poultry population
can and obviously increase the risk of emergence.

DI BAIN: He says intensive pig farming has its pros and cons.

JOSEPH DOMENECH: The establishment of new big farms with industrial systems of production are
increasing the biosecurity and when it works and in these sort of farms it works very often, this
is a good prevention of diseases.

DI BAIN: Australian pig farmers often house thousands of pigs in relatively small areas.

And news that a Mexican worker apparently gave the flu to a pig in Canada has some farmers
concerned. That flu quickly spread to about 200 nearby pigs.

Australian farmers have strict quarantine and biosecurity rules they must abide by which were
brought in during the 1990s. This has resulted in the pig population in Australia being flu free
but this latest outbreak has some farmers on heightened alert.

West Australian pig farmer Richard Evison:

RICHARD EVISON: We run a biosecurity protocol so we monitor the people that might be visiting the
farm. And in the wake of the outbreak I suppose it's always more of a worry when people don't know
how it spreads and actually what it is. We definitely know more about it now although we're still
not a hundred per cent clear.

DI BAIN: The Australian Veterinary Association's President Mark Lawrie says keeping humans away
from pigs might not be enough. He says birds could be spreading this strain of the virus.

MARK LAWRIE: We think some of the greater risks are with wildlife type birds and we certainly know
from some of the emerging diseases that the less contact that creatures have with people, sometimes
the more severe can be some of the outbreaks that we're seeing: Ebola, Hendra virus, Nipah virus
and human pathogenic avian influenza. But it's quite a varied picture and so yes, still gaining
more knowledge on those causes.

DI BAIN: How does one catch a respiratory disease from a native bird?

MARK LAWRIE: We certainly, traditionally the concept is that respiratory disease is spread by
aerosol, breathing things in. But recent studies in human, more with the common cold, have shown
that contact, hand contact to mouth can play a major role and may be more important than what we
thought previously.

And hence the focus on the washing of hands, even with this current outbreak, that that plays a
very important role.

DI BAIN: Dr Lawrie says the evolution of infectious diseases like swine flu is likely to become
more common as climate change forces native wildlife to come into contact with humans.

PETER CAVE: Di Bain with that report.