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A new service is helping farmers and vets track swine flu across much of Europe – aiding diagnosis of the disease and the appropriate... Interactive map helps track swine flu spread across Europe

A new service is helping farmers and vets track swine flu across much of Europe – aiding diagnosis of the disease and the appropriate prevention and vaccination programme.

The Interactive Swine Flu Map is accessed by a webpage link. This shows the development of the strains of influenza detected on pig units by region and by country. The map is updated on a quarterly basis.

”It is important for veterinarians and farmers to know if influenza is occurring in their region and also the different strains,” says specialist veterinarian Kathrin Lillie-Jaschniski.

Detection

Pandemic strains of swine flu have been detected in pig herds since 2009, changing the dynamics on many farms. The tracking service has been introduced by animal health company Ceva, which continues to support the diagnosis of influenza across Europe.

To detect the virus, a variety of samples – such as nasal swabs, oral fluids or lung tissues – are taken in herds with acute clinical signs of flu, or those with persistent respiratory or reproductive symptoms, and are then analysed in laboratories.

The free service is available in the UK, Germany, Poland, Czech Republic, Ireland, France, Spain, Portugal, Netherlands, Belgium, Denmark, Hungary and Italy. To protect their privacy, the interactive map doesn’t indentify individual farms.

‘Strong signal’

Normally such information is only published in scientific journals long after virus detection. Ceva offers diagnostic support to farmers via their own vets, through its local Veterinary Service Teams.

“Evidence that classical and pandemic strains of flu are occurring in a particular region gives a strong signal that vaccination should be considered,” said Dr Lillie- Jaschniski. “Pandemic strains can also spill over from pigs to humans and vice versa, so there is a public health aspect too.”

Apart from the health aspect, swine flu can have serious economic consequences for a pig herd, especially if other respiratory infections are present.

A French survey showed an outbreak can cost up to €16 per gilt, with a Swedish study estimating losses at €77 per sow.

To access the swine flu tracker, visit www.bit.ly/SwineFluTracker