Pig producers' perceptions of the influenza pandemic H1N1/09 outbreak and its effect on their biosecurity practices in Australia

Marta Hernández-Jover*, Melanie Taylor, Patricia Holyoake, Navneet Dhand

*Corresponding author for this work

Research output: Contribution to journalArticle

17 Citations (Scopus)

Abstract

The Influenza Pandemic (H1N1/09) virus was first reported in humans in Mexico in April 2009 and a pandemic level was declared on 11th of June 2009 by the World Health Organization (Chan, 2009; WHO, 2009a). Public misconceptions about the transmission of H1N1/09 were caused by the inadequate naming of the disease as 'swine influenza'. This cross-sectional study was conducted at the height of the outbreak in the Australian human population and before the virus was reported in the first piggery in Australia in July 2009 (OIE, 2009b; Holyoake et al., 2011). The aims of this study were to evaluate pig producers' perceptions about the virus and the outbreak financial impact and influence on on-farm biosecurity practices. A questionnaire was designed and posted to Australian Pork Limited (APL) members (n=460), obtaining responses from 182 producers (39.6%). Pig producers had good general knowledge on potential transmission pathways for H1N1/09 between people, with direct or close contact with a sick person perceived as the most likely pathways. Changes on biosecurity practices, such as asking visitors if they had recently been overseas (27.8%) and not allowing any visitor to inspect their pigs (18.3%), were reported among respondents. In addition, approximately 40% of producers asked their employees to notify flu like symptoms, consulted a veterinarian on H1N1/09 and visited websites to seek information on H1N1/09. A higher adoption of these practices was observed among large (>100 sows) than small herds. Only 2.9% of respondents reported a reduction in pig sales during the outbreak. However, approximately one third of producers reported being financially and emotionally stressed, 38.2% were distressed about the health of their pigs and 16.7% about their own health. The most important sources of information were APL (93%), veterinarians (89%) and the state Department of Primary Industries (DPI) (75%). The first two considered the most trusted sources of information. Television, radio and other farmers were considered more important sources of information by small herds and veterinarians by larger herds. Producers believed that the H1N1/09 outbreak was better managed by the pork industry (89.9%) than by the health authorities (58.8%), and the on-going communication with APL was the main strength of the outbreak management. Communication and extension programs in future outbreaks should consider the needs of all sectors of the pig industry to increase their effectiveness.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)284-294
Number of pages11
JournalPreventive Veterinary Medicine
Volume106
Issue number3-4
DOIs
Publication statusPublished - 1 Oct 2012
Externally publishedYes

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