"Swine" flu label keeps pork sales down

By Crystal Price - bio | email

LAKE CHARLES, LA (KPLC) - The H1N1 virus, also known as "swine" flu continues to spread across the country.

Days after the virus outbreak in April at a pig farm in Mexico, the World Organization for Animal Health began referring to the virus as "swine flu."

"I think people had misconceptions about what really was happening," says Mark Leblanc, a pig farmer in Vinton, Louisiana.

Local pork farmers say the simple name of the flu is hurting the pork business.

"There's a handful of maybe 5 or 6 farmers in the state who maybe have 200 head of sows and it affects them as the price for cash hogs goes down," says Leblanc.

Leblanc has been raising pigs at his farm in Vinton for 17 years.

He says in order for sales in the state to pick up, the media needs to set the record straight.

"You are not going to get it from touching swine," says Leblanc. "I deal with them everyday, so you're not going to get swine flu from dealing with hogs or eating the meat."

Leblanc says he expects his sales to pick up as 4-H and FFA students in the area begin looking for pigs to show.

Dawna Wilfer has been showing pigs for three years now.

She feels pigs are some of the healthiest animals alive.

"It's not the pig's fault," says Wilfer. "I've been in contact with pigs for three years and nothing's happened to me."

"People started calling it swine flu when it's a virus that can be on any animal," says Chuck Kinney, an agriculture instructor from Sulphur High School.

Nationwide the pork industry has seen a revenue reduction of nearly 2.2 billion dollars since the outbreak.

Leblanc says the publicity of the virus needs to die down before sales can pick up again.

The next pig sale to be held in our area is scheduled for Saturday, October 3, 2009 at 2 PM at the West Cal Area in Sulphur, Louisiana.

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