WASHINGTON -- A new flu virus thought to have originated in pigs has agricultural producers on alert two years after a swine flu pandemic caused sales to drop and disrupted U.S. pork exports.
Twelve people in five states have been infected, with three of them hospitalized, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention in Atlanta.
At least six reported no recent exposure to pigs, suggesting "limited human-to-human transmission," according to the report. Eleven of those stricken were children.
The virus may not become as prevalent as the 2009 variant, known as H1N1, which led to as many as 89 million cases and 18,300 deaths in the United States in the first flu pandemic in more than 40 years, according to the CDC.
Still, livestock producers are concerned that consumers may fear they can get a potentially lethal disease from eating pork. Flu is transmitted through droplets of infected body fluids when people cough, sneeze or talk.
"It's always something that we need to keep an eye on, that it doesn't get more severe or spread more quickly," said Liz Wagstrom, chief veterinarian with the National Pork Producers Council. "It's very important the public understand you can't get flu from eating pork."
During the H1N1 pandemic, China and Russia closed their markets to U.S. pork and industry revenue was estimated to have fallen by nearly $2.2 billion in the last eight months of 2009, according to the council.