Swine Influenza

Swine influenza, also called "swine flu," is a respiratory disease of pigs caused by type A influenza viruses that regularly cause outbreaks of influenza in pigs. The main swine influenza viruses circulating in U.S. pigs to which swine workers can be exposed have been swine triple reassortant (tr) H1N1 influenza virus, trH3N2 virus, and trH1N2 virus.

Swine Influenza

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Who is at risk for infection with swine flu?

Although any susceptible individual can become infected with swine flu, employees working in swine farming and pork production are at a greater risk due to direct contact with infected pigs.

What are the hazards associated with swine flu?

Flu can cause a range of symptoms and effects, from mild to lethal. Although flu viruses that circulate in pigs are different from flu viruses that circulate in people, some flu viruses can be transmitted between people and pigs.

What can I do to protect myself?

Workers should be instructed in the following good hygiene practices:

  • Cover your nose and mouth with a tissue when coughing or sneezing. Throw used tissues in the trash. If you do not have tissue, cough or sneeze into your upper sleeve.

  • Do not touch your eyes, nose and mouth.

  • Wash your hands often, using soap and water for 20 seconds. Use alcohol-based sanitizer if soap and water are not available.

  • Shower and change your clothes when entering and leaving work.

Workers should be instructed to wash their hands:

  • Before and after contact with pigs

  • After contact with contaminated equipment or surfaces

  • Before and after use of personal protective equipment

The following personal protective equipment is recommended for swine production workers when working with known or suspected flu-infected pigs:

  • Uniforms or coveralls

  • Rubber, polyurethane boots or disposable shoe covers

  • Disposable gloves

  • Safety goggles

  • Disposable, lightweight head or hair covers

  • Respirators

  • Personal protective equipment should be laundered, disinfected or discarded at work and should never be taken home or worn outside of work areas.

What resources are available to assist employers?

Safety and Health Programs

An example respirator program and PPE hazard assessment forms are available and can be customized to fit workplace conditions. Employers are required to perform a workplace hazard analysis to determine what personal protective equipment is necessary to protect employees from continued exposure to identified hazards.

Training and Outreach Services

A presentation on personal protective equipment and respiratory protection for general industry and construction provide general safety and health information on personal protective equipment and should be modified to address site-specific conditions and hazards.

In addition, the education, training and technical assistance bureau provides free online safety and health training and outreach services (i.e., speaker's bureau requests, safety booths) upon request. 

Lastly, the NCDOL Library offers free safety and health videos (including streaming video services) and related research assistance on consensus standards (i.e., ANSI, NFPA, NEC).

A-Z Safety and Health Topics

Other resource information pertaining to personal protective equipment and respiratory protection can be found on the A-Z topics page. 

Consultation Services

The consultative services bureau provides free and confidential onsite consultation regarding worksite safety and health hazards.

Which standards apply?

There are no specific OSH standards for swine flu; however, the following standards can be applied.  Note: Please also check the standards information and activity webpage to see if there has been any recent or upcoming regulatory activity on this topic. 

General Industry

General Duty Clause

Additionally, N.C. General Statute 95-129(1), commonly referred to as the General Duty Clause, may be applied for recognized serious hazards not covered by a specific NCDOL standard.

Other Applicable Standards

The Which OSHA Standards Apply webpage can also help identify other standards that may be applicable to your worksite.

Where can I learn more?

Industry Guides

Technical Assistance

If you would like to receive interpretive guidance on this or any other OSH standard or topic, you can submit your questions using the Ask OSH web form, by e-mail to ask.osh@labor.nc.gov or by calling 919-707-7876.