Should I Have a Piglet Around My Child?

We just bought an eight week old piglet to raise for food. Was this a stupid thing to do? Are healthy pigs carriers of swine flu or can people only get it from a sick pig? Are we putting ourselves in danger to be in close contact with a pig? I have a two year old daughter, so I need info about this right away. I hope you can help.


Worried Mommy

Dear “Worried Mommy”,

I would not have a pig around a 2-year old right now. 51% of the pigs in the north-central United States show antibody evidence of swine flu infection, along with around 30% of pigs throughout the world. This virus is endemic in pigs, so if your piglet has been around any number of other pigs, there’s a good chance it has been exposed to the virus. When I speak of swine influenza virus, I’m talking about the H1N1 virus, a strain of which is causing the current health risk. Pigs will remain “carrier pigs” for up to three months after infection with swine flu and the same pig can have a second outbreak once their immunity has waned. Among a herd of pigs, swine flu will be transmitted from one pig to another, and then the original carrier pig is likely to have another case of swine flu at a later date as the infection infects the herd.

Swine Flu and the Risk to Children

Children not only have less immunity to disease, but they also don’t know to take the disease control precautions that most adults do, so as washing their hands frequently or keeping hands that have been in contact with germs away from their nose and mouth. The swine flu causes lethargy and body aches, as well as fever. Doctors warn that children are more susceptible to ill effects from rapid fever, especially when it rises quickly over 102 degrees. So there’s no way I would take the risk having a 2-year old child around a piglet right now.

Dangerous For Adults, Too


Every year, some 36,000 Americans die from influenza or complications from the flu (often pneumonia). Usually, those are the aged and infirm and sometimes even small children. One reason the current swine flu infection is causing so much concern is that this latest mutation of swine flu has shown that it can be a serious health risk to people in their 20’s, 30’s and 40’s. So our children and senior citizens are not the only ones at risk in this current swine flu outbreak.

Having a Piglet Around a Child During Swine Flu

But let’s get back to the subject of swine flu, piglets and children. Swine flu is worst among pigs during cold weather months and onset of cold weather months, the fall and winter months, just like flu outbreaks in humans. Pigs infected with swine flu will be lethargic, develop fever, cough (which sounds like a bark) and have discharges from their eyes and nose. The coughing and the discharges will infect other pigs. From the numbers stated above, you can see that swine flu spreads rapidly and endemically through a swine community. Of course, when researchers find “antibody evidence” of swine flu in pigs, that doesn’t mean they all have it or are contagious at the time. That means that 51% of swine appear to have had the disease at one time or another, but that’s still way too much of a risk when your children are concerned.