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Pandemic Flu

Can Eating Pork Cause H1N1 Flu (Swine Flu)?

No! But the relationship between swine flu and pork consumption can be confusing. Some messages make it sound like you could contract the swine flu virus, H1N1, if you eat pork that's improperly cooked, and that is absolutely not true.

Viruses that cause influenza, including H1N1, are airborne, not food-borne. You can't get the flu from eating pork, BBQ chicken, green beans, or anything else -- unless someone who has the flu sneezes on your plate before you dig in. But that's not a pork problem. That's a people problem.

Still, the "cook properly" part of the message is important. All raw meat, including pork, must be cooked thoroughly to be safe. That is just a fact of life.

Hand Washing Is the Best DefenseHand Washing Is the Best Defense

The absolute best way to protect yourself from both food-borne illness and from flu viruses is to wash your hands thoroughly and often. To do so, run hot water over your hands -- at least 100 degrees. It should be as hot as you can stand and still be able to keep your hands under water. Then, apply soap and scrub your hands, wrists, and forearms. Be sure to get under your fingernails and between your fingers.

Wash your hands for 15 to 20 seconds; time yourself - it is longer than it sounds. Then, rinse thoroughly in running water, which allows microorganisms to be washed away. To dry, use a fresh paper towel or warm-air dryer. Cloth towels used previously may have become contaminated.

For historical information on H1N1 (swine flu), see the CDC website at http://www.cdc.gov/h1n1flu/swineflu_you.htm.   

Updated information on the current flu season can be found at the CDC Seasonal Flu website.

This article originally appeared in Chowline, a service of Ohio State University Extension and the Ohio Agricultural Research and Development Center, and was adapted for use on NetWellness with permission, 2009.

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Last Reviewed: Jan 21, 2011

Julie  Kennel, PhD, RD, CSSD, LD Julie Kennel, PhD, RD, CSSD, LD
Director of Human Nutrition Dietetic Internship
College of Education and Human Ecology
The Ohio State University