People, pigs and swine flu

Is it safe to eat pork?

Who gets the swine flu? Also known as the H3N2 variant flu virus, the answer is pigs – and people. Most cases of swine flu have happened to people who have exhibited pigs at fairs, similar to the child who was exhibiting pigs at the Berrien County Youth Fair during the last week of August, in southwestern Michigan. This is the first case of swine flu for 2013 in Michigan, but there were several cases of it in Indiana this summer and at least one case in Illinois and Ohio. So far this year no one has been hospitalized or died from this flu. In 2011 and 2012, 321 people in the United States were diagnosed with H3N2 variant flu virus.

Michigan State University Extension says that it is important to know that you cannot get swine influenza from eating pork or pork products. It is safe to eat properly handled and cooked pork. The United State Department of Agriculture (USDA) recommends cooking pork roasts, steaks and chops to 145 degrees Fahrenheit with a three minute rest time before carving or consuming. This will result in pork that is both safe and at its best quality – juicy and tender. For reasons of personal preference you may choose to cook meat to higher temperatures. Understand however, that 145 degrees Fahrenheit kills the swine flu virus just as it does other bacteria and viruses.

When it comes to ground pork patties and ground pork mixtures, such as meat loaf, the USDA recommends cooking to 160 degrees Fahrenheit. Cook all organ and variety meats (such as heart, kidney, liver, tongue and chitterlings) also to 160 degrees Fahrenheit.

People get swine flu directly from pigs, after handling the pigs and not washing their hands. It’s like your mom always told you – wash your hands, and use soap!

All types of flu have similar symptoms, and the swine flu is no different. Symptoms include:

  • A fever of 100 degrees Fahrenheit, or higher; or feeling feverish (not everyone with the flu has a fever)
  • A cough and/or sore throat
  • A runny or stuffy nose
  • Headaches and/or body aches
  • Chills
  • Fatigue
  • Nausea, vomiting and/or diarrhea (most common in children)

People can make animals sick too, so it is important to remember to wash your hands before and after petting or handling animals, for your sake and theirs.

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