Claude Vielfaure is rolling up his sleeves, but he’s not heading into the barn, he’s getting his flu shot.
“I think it is important to protect yourself against the flu and we like all of our employees to get the shot,” said the La Broquerie hog producer.
He was one of dozens to line up for a flu shot during a clinic held at the Canadian Swine Health Forum in Winnipeg, hosted by the Canadian Swine Health Board (CSHB).
“It’s something we should be doing on a yearly basis, it’s good for people and it’s good for the animals,” said the CSHB member and HyLife representative with the Manitoba Pork Council.
The CSHB began recommending all hog producers and barn workers get the shot in 2009.
“In 2009 we had the H1N1, that was a pandemic that went around the world, and as it turns out it wasn’t pigs carrying it, it was us humans,” said Robert Harding, CSHB executive director.
First dubbed the “swine flu,” Harding notes that moniker was inaccurate. Although it was originally detected in Canadian swine herds, it had been spread to the hogs via infected humans.
The United Nation’s World Health Organization later emphasized the pandemic strain be called H1N1 and not linked to hogs, but damage was done to the Canadian pork industry in the meantime, Harding said.
“Now the animals recovered and so on, but the reality in Canada is that we lost some export markets because some countries overreacted,” he said, adding it was Canada’s tight regulations and effective biosecurity measures that caught the disease in the first place.
But human diseases can be transferred to swine, making vaccination an important part of maintaining a healthy barn, said Harding.
The decision to include a flu clinic in the forum was aimed at making the shot more accessible to producers who may not always have time for an extra trip into town.
“When we interviewed producers, we found the main reason they don’t get the flu shot is because they don’t have time,” said the executive director. “We’re finding our producers appreciate this opportunity because their lives are busy enough as it is, especially right now with the extreme challenges being faced by our producers from a cost perspective.”
Manitoba Health recommends that everyone gets a flu shot, but says it is particularly important for those over 65, as well as for those who work with the elderly.
“Every year thousands of Canadians, mostly seniors, die from complications relating to the flu,” said Arlene Wilgosh, CEO of the Winnipeg Regional Health Authority. “Contracting influenza is much more severe than just suffering through a bout of the common cold and immunization can help prevent influenza and reduce the risk of serious complications or even death.”
Vaccines change yearly to protect against the three most common strains of flu expected to circulate during the coming season.
In Manitoba, the flu shot is offered free of charge to everyone and is available through QuickCare clinics, family doctors and public health clinics.