As the swine flu epidemic grows, North Carolina health officials are taking precautions. Considering our state is the second largest hog producer in the country, and the swine virus started with an infected pig, hog farms are watching who comes in contact with their livestock. Shoppers are still buying pork, despite the outbreak of swine flu in Mexico, and some US states. Be assured, swine influenza viruses are not transmitted by food. You cannot get swine flu from eating pork or pork products. North Carolina is a leading hog producer and three large hog farms are in our five county viewing- area, producing hundreds of millions of pounds of pork a year. Smithfield is the second largest hog producer in the country. The Bladen County based company released a statement stating the swine flu is not present in any of its herds or employees. Even so, companies like Smithfield are taking precautions, since the recent outbreak started with one infected pig. "If people work with animals, and if animals have the infection, then those people can pick it up, you can get infections, and even touch a surface, or by coughing you can spread it,” said Dianne Gatewood of the NC Cooperative Extension. The symptoms are like any other flu, runny nose and eyes, fever, and stomach problems. “It’s very important that if you feel like you've got these symptoms, to get to a doctor, because that's why a lot of people are dying, because they aren't getting to the doctors quick enough. And to above all, practice the cleanliness methods,” Gatewood said. The best defense is soap and warm water. North Carolina hospitals and health departments are equipped with a full supply of antiviral medications, and said they're ready to respond if there is a local outbreak. It's important to remember, there have been no reported cases in or even near our state thus far.
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