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Vilsack updates Congress on USDA response to H1N1 flu

Friday, May 8, 2009

U.S. pork is still safe to eat, Vilsack said.
U.S. pork is still safe to eat, Vilsack said.

U.S. Department of Agriculture secretary Tom Vilsack testified before Congress today, updating a subcommittee on the USDA's preparations to prevent an outbreak of the H1N1 influenza, previously called swine flu, from occurring in livestock.

Vilsack repeated USDA's conclusion that the virus has not infected any pigs in the U.S. and that American pork is safe to consume. However, he noted the agency is working to develop a vaccine for swine.

When the human strain of the influenza was first reported two weeks ago, it sent shockwaves through the agriculture futures markets and prompted some countries - illogically, it turns out - to place temporary ban on imports of U.S. pork.

"Vigilance is something we are used to at USDA and we have an effective safeguarding system in place that utilizes surveillance, testing and monitoring to ensure diseases are kept out of the livestock industry," Vilsack said.

Swine influenza, though not the 2009-H1N1 strain, is endemic in the United States, Vilsack said. He added that USDA and the swine industry have a long history of successfully dealing with this virus.
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