12:00 AM

Ohio State expert can talk about swine flu

WOOSTER, Ohio – An Ohio State University animal health expert with Ohio State's Ohio Agricultural Research and Development Center is available to comment on the swine flu outbreak.

The center's Food Animal Health Research Program is the only Ohio State lab working on swine flu, said Mo Saif, head of the program and assistant dean of the College of Veterinary Medicine. The program's interest mainly lies in the transmission of influenza viruses between different species including poultry and swine.

"When we have a flu problem in turkeys, most of the time it can be traced to swine," Saif said. "Swine are known as the mixing vessel of influenza viruses."

Transmission of flu viruses from swine to humans occurs occasionally, Saif said – "maybe a couple of times a year." Most are mild cases. An outbreak in Huron County traced to the county fair a few years ago caused 26 illnesses and a couple of hospitalizations, but it ended there, he said.

"In the past, almost all of these cases have been mild illnesses, and people recovered spontaneously. And that seems to be what's happening now, at least in areas outside of Mexico. What countries outside of Mexico have been experiencing seems more like the common flu – just the source of the virus is different. It remains to be seen why the cases in Mexico have been more serious."

Saif suggests that Ohioans follow guidelines of the Centers of Disease Control and Prevention and take normal precautions to prevent spread of illness. "Wash your hands frequently, keep your hands away from your face, and if you feel sick – if you have headaches, muscle aches, a stuffy nose, cough or fever – go to your physician right away."

The virus is transmitted animal-to-human or human-to-human, Saif said. There is no reason to avoid eating pork and related products.