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Nature calls for OIE investigation

News Section Icon Published 19/06/2009

Scientists call on the World Organisation for Animal Health (OIE) to investigate the origins of swine flu and improve surveillance of pig farms.

Scientists writing in this week's Nature journal have highlighted the risks that a lack of surveillance of pig farms is posing to human health. There is abundant evidence that the 2009 outbreak of swine flu originated in pig farms. However, international bodies such as the OIE have denied the origins of the virus in order to protect global trade in meat and livestock.

The OIE has also played down the possibility that the 2009 pandemic flu might be spreading in pigs, as it has not been found in animals outside of one farm in Canada. But according to experts, the search has not been rigorous - there is no requirement to notify the authorities of outbreaks in pigs and farmers have little incentive to report outbreaks in their herd, as this would result in a culling of their pigs. There is also very little funding available for surveillance.

Compassion in World Farming has presented research ( 59.60KB) which shows that farming pigs in intensive and cruel conditions increases the risk of the development and spread of dangerous flu pathogens. According to health experts, the H1N1 swine flu virus may be circulating on pig farms and moving back and forth between the human and pig populations. However, the lack of surveillance means that the virus is not being detected, thus further increasing the risk of it developing into a more dangerous form.

Scientists conclude that there is an urgent need for increased surveillance of the virus, and call on the OIE to work with the World Health Organisation and other public health organisations to coordinate global surveillance efforts.

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