First human case of 'Swine' Flu in UK - What precautions are needed for farmers?

The UK Health Security Agency (UKHSA) has detected a single confirmed human case of influenza A(H1N2)v.  

Influenza A(H1N2)v is similar to flu viruses currently circulating in pigs in the UK. This is the first detection of this strain of flu in a human in the UK.  Pig keepers have been asked to report any suspicion of swine flu in their herds to their local vet immediately.

The case was detected as part of routine national flu surveillance undertaken by UKHSA and the Royal College of General Practitioners (RCGP). The individual was tested by their GP after experiencing respiratory symptoms.

The individual concerned experienced a mild illness and has fully recovered. The source of their infection has not yet been ascertained and remains under investigation.  UKHSA is monitoring the situation closely and is taking steps to increase surveillance within existing programmes involving GP surgeries and hospitals in parts of North Yorkshire. UKHSA detects human case of influenza A(H1N2)v - GOV.UK (

Chief Veterinary Officer, Christine Middlemiss, said:   We know that some diseases of animals can be transferred to humans – which is why high standards of animal health, welfare and biosecurity are so important.

Through our animal and human surveillance systems we work together to protect everyone. In this case we are providing specialist veterinary and scientific knowledge to support the UKHSA investigation. Pig keepers must also report any suspicion of swine flu in their herds to their local vet immediately.

Whilst it is hoped this is an isolated case, it is important for all those who keep animals to ensure proper precautionary and contingency planning is kept up to date. This remains particularly important for those who may be at risk from avian flu which is still circulating.

Precautionary and Contingency planning will be critical for all disease outbreak situations:

  • A full Hazard Analysis Critical Control Point (HACCP) plan should incorporate all major risks and seek to protect against them at vulnerable points within the supply, processing and distribution chain. This should be kept regularly updated to ensure that specific risks are reviewed and that protections and precautions, as far as possible and practical, are included and procedures updated accordingly.
  • Make yourself aware of and familiarise yourself with both the national generic contingency plan and the local contingency plans in your sector held by your local authority
  • A business should have a detailed and up to date crisis management plan, listing key decision makers, experts and responsibilities. This should be regularly reviewed/tested and any recommendations implemented.
  • The crisis management plan should be linked to a business continuity plan. Are there alternative supply locations for key ingredients? Alternative production facilities?
  • Check all insurance terms as well as withdraw/recall insurance policies and terms.
  • Check contractual terms of supply and distribution agreements.
  • keep your livestock records safe. These will be essential and a legal requirement, whether paper-based or computerised, to allow the effective tracing of disease by the authorities and will be needed if movement restrictions and licensing come into effect
  • Health and safety legislation obliges employers to provide a safe as reasonably practicable environment for staff and visitors; suitable risk assessments for employees and other persons affected by the work activities should be carried out and all reasonable precautionary measures implemented.
  • Keep alert for hazards, particularly high risk scenarios and symptoms and be ready to respond according to your assessment of the risk ie, with bird flu poultry keepers are advised to watch for signs of disease, and maintain high levels of biosecurity at all times. If there are any concerns about the health of the poultry, seek prompt advice from veterinary experts.  This would extend to swine and any other affected animal.
  • Keep abreast of new developments – legal, scientific and medical that may affect your product / assist you in protecting against risks and so protecting your customers, consumers and employees and ultimately your business/brand.
  • Ensure best welfare conditions for animals. Talk to your veterinary surgeon about preventative health strategies (for example, the pros and cons of vaccination, if applicable.)
  • Follow government guidance and industry best practice.
  • other points to consider:
    • fodder requirements if movement restrictions are in place
    • any restrictions on human movement from infected premises (both family and workers)
    • beware of zoonoses (some animal diseases can infect humans and these are likely to be more prevalent in a disease situation)
  • keep your plans updated as things that may affect them are constantly changing.

As in any crisis, the priority of food safety and quality as well health and safety and the welfare of animals should be maintained.

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Every piece of content we create is correct on the date it’s published but please don’t rely on it as legal advice. If you’d like to speak to us about your own legal requirements, please contact one of our expert lawyers.

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