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USDA Holds Media Briefings on H1N1 Preparation Efforts; Urges News Outlets to Drop `Swine Flu' Label

Friday, September 11, 2009

(American Meat Institute)

USDA Secretary Tom Vilsack and Deputy Secretary Kathleen Merrigan addressed the media on the department’s H1N1 preparations in separate briefings yesterday, stressing the importance of responsible, accurate reporting and urging members of the press to cease calling the novel strain “swine flu” and instead refer to it as H1N1.

“The media is causing undue and undeserved harm to America’s agriculture industry and especially to U. S. pork producers who are experiencing severe economic losses in these challenging times,” said Vilsack. “Every time the flu is misrepresented, it makes it more difficult for pork producers as well as others in rural communities who suffer as well.”

Vilsack reminded reporters that H1N1 virus is not the same as swine flu. He said that this H1N1 is a unique virus and that there have been no reports in 2009 of the virus circulating in swine herd – and even if it were, humans could not be affected by eating pork.

Vilsack said USDA is increasing animal health surveillance and monitoring, and is developing a master seed virus to assist in the production of a vaccine to protect swine herds. This master seed virus has been provided to five veterinary biological manufacturers.

“If the disease is found in U.S. swine, we will work with state officials, veterinarians and pork producers to prevent the spread of the virus. When it comes to flu, swine react much as people do. The vast majority recover without any lingering health effects,” Vilsack said.

In a separate teleconference, Agriculture Deputy Secretary Kathleen Merrigan moderated a media question and answer session with an expert panel that included Dr. John Clifford, USDA Chief Veterinary Officer, Dr. Steven Kappes, USDA Agricultural Research Service Deputy Administrator for Animal Production and Protection and Dr. Kenneth E. Petersen, USDA Food Safety and Inspection Service Assistant Administrator, Office of Field Operations.

The panel fielded questions on a range of topics including the state of international markets, surveillance and monitoring plans and vaccination developments.

 In closing, the Deputy Secretary again asked the media to cooperate in using the proper nomenclature regarding the H1N1 virus.

 For more information, go to http://www.usda.gov/wps/portal/usdahome.

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