CFIA urging flu shots for livestock workers

Seasonal flu shots for livestock producers, their families and workers can help prevent the spread of influenza viruses between people and animals, the Canadian Food Inspection Agency recommends.

The federal agency’s public recommendation Wednesday applied also to veterinarians, service personnel such as feed truck drivers and workers handling inseminations and livestock vaccinations, as well as anyone visiting hog operations.

Several flu viruses can be transmitted between people and animals, and between different species of animals, the agency reiterated.

Apart from the damage a flu can cause in herds and flocks, human health experts have long been concerned that potent strains such as the infamous H5N1 could mutate or combine with another flu virus, such as H1N1, that could spread more easily between people.

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Anyone with flu-like symptoms should also avoid contact with livestock, particularly sick animals, the agency said Wednesday.

Anyone who works with livestock can also protect animals by following biosecurity practices, managing movements of people, animals and equipment on their property, observing animals daily for signs of disease, and calling a veterinarian if animals appear sick.

"Even if you got the flu shot last year, you should get it again this year," the agency said, urging producers to contact their local public health authorities for information about any flu shot clinics in their area.

Getting the flu shot every year is important because the vaccine is reformulated annually to protect against the "most current" strains of the virus, CFIA said.

The Public Health Agency of Canada’s standing recommendation is that all healthy Canadians over the age of six months get the flu shot, CFIA noted.

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