Swine flu found on local farm

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Farmers’ organizations want their members to be allocated the first batches of swine flu vaccine that are arriving in Norway, after the disease was confirmed on a farm in Nord-Trøndelag. Around 1,400 animals will now be slaughtered. Meanwhile, both farmers and state officials were busy assuring Norwegians that it was still safe to eat pork.

State food safety officials taking tests. PHOTO: Mattilsynet

The pork industry is big in Norway, so it came as bad news that tests conducted by the country’s Food Safety Authority (Mattilsynet) confirmed, for the first time, swine flu among animals on a Norwegian farm. The disease was found on a farm at Åsen in Levanger, Nord-Trøndelag, over the weekend.

Tests were also conducted Sunday on pigs at a farm in Hedmark, but they proved to be negative. Swine flu was found at another Trøndelag farm, however.

It’s there, at the second farm at Skogn in Levanger, where Mattilsynet officials decided to order an emergency slaughter on Tuesday. It has animals at other sites within a 10 kilometer radius, sparking fears of infection. Officials later decided to slaughter animals at the Åsen farm as well.

The state officials have been trying to maintain Norway as a “swine flu-free zone,” both to keep animals healthy and limit economic losses for the industry.That’s why both state officials and the farmers’ and pork growers’ association (Bondelaget) have been quick to minimize any fears about eating pork.

“We have it from all sources that it’s completely safe to eat pork, and that there’s no danger of being infected with swine flu through meat,” Jon Trøite of the Nord-Trøndelag Bondelag told Norwegian Broadcasting (NRK).

Norway so far hasn’t been hit hard by swine flu, but fears rose earlier this month when a young woman died after being diagnosed with the disease and then giving birth. The baby survived. State health officials have been urging all pregnant women to take the vaccine, but the recommendation is a subject of debate.

Others considered to be in a priority group for the vaccine include people with chronic disease and health care personnel. “But after that, it must be our turn,” said national Bondelag leader Nils T Bjørke. Pork growers want to jump to the top of the queue.