Virus H1N1

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23.07.2009

Argentina's government has launched emergency animal health measures following the discovery of the new H1N1 (swine flu) virus in two pig herds.

The flu strain has killed 137 people in the South American country during the Southern Hemisphere winter and the government has closed schools and urged Argentines to avoid crowded places to halt its spread.
"A state of alert doesn't mean there's high risk. It just means that the virus could appear in another farm," said Jorge Dillon, a director at the state Senasa agency, which is responsible for animal health and food safety.
"This virus has pretty mild symptoms in pigs, and of course, this poses no risk to public health," he told local television, adding that workers at a farm in Buenos Aires province were suspected of having infected the pigs with swine flu.
Signs of a swine flu outbreak have been found in a second Argentine pig herd, but Dillon said laboratory tests were still needed to confirm the infection.
He said it was logical to think the confirmed case in Argentina represented the second suspected case of human-to-pig transmission of the flu, referring to an outbreak at a pig farm in Canada that officials later stepped back from.
Canadian health officials said a traveler carried the new virus from Mexico to Canada, possibly infecting his family and a herd of swine in May, but tests later showed the man was not the source of infection.
However, they did not rule out the possibility the virus could still have been transmitted into the herd by a person.
The special measures imposed will allow officials to step up testing in pig farms and in slaughter houses in order to guarantee early detection, the government's official gazette said.
Argentina is one of the world's biggest exporters of beef and other farm goods but it exports very few pork products.
The deadly new flu strain appeared earlier this year in Mexico and the United States but has since spread across the globe and the World Health Organisation declared a pandemic last month in a bid to halt its spread.
 

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