Swine flu is a contagious illness found in hogs throughout the U.S. and Canada. The disease has become increasingly virulent in recent years- the virus has evolved from the H1N1 strain to the H3N2 strain and can now spread from human to human causing disease in those infected. Often the disease spreads from a farm worker who has been in direct contact with hogs to his or her family.
Healthy swine can develop swine flu through direct contact with feces, urine, or nasal discharge from infected swine. The crowded conditions of industrial livestock operations increase the likelihood of an infected sow infecting others in the barn, especially when the animals’ immune systems are compromised because of the unnatural living conditions.
Some researchers wonder whether swine flu could lead to a flu epidemic similar to the 1918 Spanish Influenza outbreak. Improvements to the health care system since then suggest it is unlikely that we would experience something on this scale. However, the Canadian government’s commitment to further industrializing agriculture in the country will only serve to exacerbate pandemic flu risks including swine flu and avian flu rather than address root causes.