By Tajeram Mohabir
Agriculture Minister Robert Persaud says there has been no report of the swine flu (H1N1) virus in Guyana and systems are in place to contain and control the disease should the need arise.
He gave the assurance to a number of pig farmers at a recently convened meeting at his Ministry in the city.
The meeting sought to sensitise the farmers to the nature of the virus, quell any fears there might be, and outline governmentxs preparation in place to address the problem should it arise.
Persaud reported that from a local stand-point, the swine industry is safe, but extension officers are deployed throughout the country to enlighten farmers on safety measures and practices to make certain Guyana is safe from the disease.
He disclosed that a forensic check-list will be developed shortly and farmers will be informed of steps they can take to avoid infection.
The Minister pointed out that the government has gained considerable experience on preparation and awareness from bird flu assimilation exercises and these skills can be activated if the situation so requires.
He emphasised too that even though Guyana has the capacity to detect the virus, it can solicit external help from external partners such as the Pan American Health Organisation (PAHO) to address the problem.
Persaud noted that PAHO has stated that it is safe to consume pork and pork products and the Ministry of Health has also adopted a robust approach in dealing with the matter.
He said his Ministry and the Ministry of Health are collaborating to prevent the entry of the disease here and noted that since the recent outbreak of the virus in Mexico, surveillance at all ports of entry and pig farms has been heightened.
According to Wikipedia, swine flu is common in pigs in the Midwestern United States (and occasionally in other states), Mexico, Canada, South America, Europe (including the United Kingdom, Sweden, and Italy), Kenya, Mainland China, Taiwan, Japan and other parts of eastern Asia.
Transmission of the swine influenza virus from pigs to humans is not common and properly cooked pork poses no risk of infection.
When transmitted, the virus does not always cause human influenza and often the only sign of infection is the presence of antibodies in the blood, detectable only by laboratory tests.
When transmission results in influenza in a human, it is called zoonotic swine flu. People who work with pigs, especially people with intense exposures, are at risk of catching swine flu.
However, only about 50 such transmissions have been recorded since the mid-20th century, when identification of influenza subtypes became possible.
Rarely, these strains of swine flu can pass from human to human. In humans, the symptoms of swine flu are similar to those of influenza and of influenza-like illness in general, including chills, fever, soar throat, muscle pains, severe headache, coughing, weakness, and general discomfort.
The 2009 outbreak in humans, Wikipedia stated, is due to a new strain of influenza, a virus subtype H1N1 that contains genes most closely related to swine influenza.
The origin of this new strain is unknown; however the World Organisation for Animal Health has reported that this strain has not been isolated in pigs as it can be transmitted from human to human.