What's the first thing that comes to mind when you hear the words "swine flu"? Pigs, right? Sick pigs. Sick pigs that might make you sick too. Well, swine flu really has very little to do with pigs, and it has absolutely nothing to do with pork. You cannot get swine flu from eating pork, and there is no reason to stop eating it.
The swine flu has been making anxious headlines for several days in news outlets all over the world, focusing on the tragic deaths of over 100 people, including one today of a toddler in Texas. Health officials are scrambling to identify the virus and work out a vaccine.
We have been following this more closely than most other health stories because of its potential impact on one of our favorite meat products: pork. The popular name of the virus — "swine flu" — and its circumstantial connection with a swine herd in Mexico has led many people to quit eating pork, and several countries have banned imports of Mexican pork altogether.
But this is an unfortunate overreaction, based on public perception, not fact.
Swine flu is a common virus that is passed among pigs, and sometimes it adapts to infect humans, too. The common flu mutates and changes every year, and some particularly virulent strains have been linked back to pigs. The infamous flu epidemic of 1918 has been linked to a swine virus, and some think that this particular outbreak is a descendant of that strain.
The virus manifests like a usual flu: high fever, aches and chills, sometimes nausea. The virus is transmitted from person to person, and the best way to keep from getting the flu (any kind of flu!) is to practice good hygiene and avoid people who are infected.
But all of this has little to nothing to do with pork. The virus cannot be transmitted through pork products, and any latent germs in meat are eradicated by proper cooking. There is no reason to avoid pork just because of the unfortunate name of this particular flu virus. For more on this and other key facts, look at the Center for Disease Control website:
• Swine Flu: Key Facts at the CDC
Have you changed anything about your pork-eating practices since the swine flu outbreak?
Related: Cooking After the Scares
(Image: The Pork Checkoff)