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Clin Infect Dis. 2006 Jan 1;42(1):14-20. Epub 2005 Nov 22.

Are swine workers in the United States at increased risk of infection with zoonotic influenza virus?

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Center for Emerging Infectious Diseases, Department of Epidemiology, University of Iowa College of Public Health, Iowa City, IA 52242, USA.



Pandemic influenza strains originate in nonhuman species. Pigs have an important role in interspecies transmission of the virus. We examined multiple swine-exposed human populations in the nation's number 1 swine-producing state for evidence of previous swine influenza virus infection.


We performed controlled, cross-sectional seroprevalence studies among 111 farmers, 97 meat processing workers, 65 veterinarians, and 79 control subjects using serum samples collected during the period of 2002-2004. Serum samples were tested using a hemagglutination inhibition assay against the following 6 influenza A virus isolates collected recently from pigs and humans: A/Swine/WI/238/97 (H1N1), A/Swine/WI/R33F/01 (H1N2), A/Swine/Minnesota/593/99 (H3N2), A/New Caledonia/20/99 (H1N1), A/Panama/2007/99 (H3N2), and A/Nanchang/933/95 (H3N2).


Using multivariable proportional odds modeling, all 3 exposed study groups demonstrated markedly elevated titers against the H1N1 and H1N2 swine influenza virus isolates, compared with control subjects. Farmers had the strongest indication of exposure to swine H1N1 virus infection (odds ratio [OR], 35.3; 95% confidence interval [CI], 7.7-161.8), followed by veterinarians (OR, 17.8; 95% CI, 3.8-82.7), and meat processing workers (OR, 6.5; 95% CI, 1.4-29.5). Similarly, farmers had the highest odds for exposure to swine H1N2 virus (OR, 13.8; 95% CI, 5.4-35.4), followed by veterinarians (OR, 9.5; 95% CI, 3.6-24.6) and meat processing workers (OR, 2.7; 95% CI, 1.1-6.7).


Occupational exposure to pigs greatly increases workers' risk of swine influenza virus infection. Swine workers should be included in pandemic surveillance and in antiviral and immunization strategies.

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