Penn State's Animal Diagnostic Laboratory monitors H1N1 influenza

May 14, 2009

University Park, Pa. -- In response to the continuing spread of H1N1 influenza A among humans, Penn State's Animal Diagnostic Laboratory (ADL) is providing leadership in monitoring any potential impact on Pennsylvania's swine herd.

John I. Enck, Jr., senior research associate and director, said, "ADL's role is to support swine producers in their continuing biosecurity efforts and to be poised to do diagnostic testing swiftly, if required. It is vital for the public to understand that there have been no instances of this new strain in the U.S. swine herd."

Enck said his highly professional staff is prepared to do "whatever is needed" to assist in any emerging threats, providing rapid detection and analysis. If swine are suspected of having influenza, ADL scientists will test samples in the lab's bio-containment building, separating the testing from regular operations. Virologists there can detect influenza A in about four hours.

If influenza A is identified, there would be continued testing, and samples would be sent to the National Veterinary Services Laboratories in Ames, Iowa.

Stressing that the most important immediate consideration for swine producers is to keep their operation tightly closed, Enck said, "Producers should strictly limit those who have access to the swine, and if an infection is suspected, immediate and appropriate precautions should be taken to minimize the risk of infection and disease transmission."

Because the virus can spread very quickly through a herd, there is urgency in having testing done as early as possible. Influenza is a respiratory disease, characterized by high fever and nasal discharge, so any respiratory distress should be immediately reported to a veterinarian and appropriate samples delivered by overnight courier to the Animal Diagnostic Laboratory at University Park.

As part of the fully accredited Pennsylvania Animal Diagnostic Laboratory System, Penn State's ADL works closely with the Pennsylvania Veterinary Laboratory at the Pennsylvania Department of Agriculture in Harrisburg and with the New Bolton Center Laboratory at the University of Pennsylvania School of Veterinary Medicine in Kennett Square. ADL is part of the Department of Veterinary and Biomedical Sciences within the Penn State College of Agricultural Sciences.

With each lab providing services unique to its expertise, Enck noted that the tripartite system avoids unnecessary duplication of capability and equipment and maximizes the benefits for producers, educators and the public. The three labs work in harmony to provide constant surveillance within the animal industry and offer support for animal owners and industries, veterinarians, animal research scientists and educators as well as state and federal animal-health programs.

Sample selection for virus isolation should include swabs with nasal and ocular secretions, tracheal swabs or fresh lung tissue. Samples should be placed in sterile, leak-proof containers with viral transport media, double bagged and shipped overnight with cool packs (do not freeze) to the laboratory. Consult the Animal Diagnostic Laboratory at (814) 863-0837 for specific instruction if needed.

If the influenza A virus is detected, ADL will notify the herd owner and the Pennsylvania Department of Agriculture's Bureau of Animal Health and Diagnostic Services, which would determine the appropriate action to be taken with regard to specific herds.

None of the currently infected individuals within the United States has had any known direct contact with pigs. Pork products remain completely safe.

While there is no vaccine for the current H1N1 virus, the United States Department of Agriculture is working to develop one.

The widespread attention being given the swine industry makes it timely for producers to review their biosecurity measures and make sure they are being enforced, according to Enck. "Extra vigilance is vital to protect the U.S. swine population, and to reassure an uneasy public," he said.

Additional information about the current H1N1 outbreak is available at

Last Updated May 06, 2010