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Swine flu threat not tied to wild pigs, hunters assured

April 30, 2009 | 12:23 pm

A feral pig runs across desert scrub.

Wild pig hunters and trappers are not at risk of contracting swine flu from their quarry, assures the California Department of Fish and Game.

Stressing that there is no indication of a link between wild pigs and the spread of swine flu, hunters are being cautioned nonetheless to use common sense when handling the animals, which can potentially carry other diseases.

"We recommend hunters wear gloves while handling wild pigs and consider the use of a mask while processing them," said DFG veterinarian Ben Gonzales. "While the incidents of hunters contracting swine brucellosis from wild pigs is rare, we still recommend taking safety precautions."

Because of the risk of contracting swine brucellosis (symptoms of which can mimic some of those associated with swine flu), it is also recommended that hunters thoroughly wash their hands and any equipment used with hot, soapy water after any contact with feral swine. Eye protection should also be worn if there is any risk of getting fluids from the pigs in the eyes.

Wild pigs can be found in many parts of the state, from inland valleys to coastal mountains. With a year-round season, California hunters kill more than 5,000 wild pigs annually.

With the swine flu virus spreading by human-to-human transmission, hunters may be at higher risk of contracting it from each other rather than from their prey.

--Kelly Burgess

Photo: A feral pig runs across desert scrub. Credit: Eric Gay/Associated Press