Five samples from pigs at the Sheung Shui Slaughterhouse last month tested positive for human swine influenza at the University of Hong Kong, the city’s Food and Environmental Hygiene Department (FEHD) reported.

As a result, the government has launched the Human Swine Influenza (HIS) Vaccination Program that is aimed at those involved in the pig farming and slaughtering trade.

The samples that tested positive for the pandemic influenza A H1N1 virus were taken from pigs on the Mainland of China.  Hong Kong health authorities believe the flu virus was transmitted from humans to the pigs.

The Center for Food Safety for the Government of the Hong Kong Special Administrative Region said occasional transmission of the flu virus to pigs has been reported around the world.

Pork remains safe to eat so long as it is properly handled and cooked to an internal temperature of 70 degrees Celsius, according to both the World Health Organization (WHO) and the World Organization for Animal Health, Food and Agriculture Organizations of the Untied Nations.

Hong Kong receives pigs from the Mainland only if they come from registered farms with properly issued health certificates.  The health of the pigs is checked at border control points.

“Pigs have to go through ante-mortem and post-mortem inspection in the slaughterhouse,” said a spokesman.  “Only pigs which pass the inspection can be supplied to the market and sold for consumption.”

FEHD is reminding slaughterhouse workers and others who might come into contact with pigs to pay attention to personal hygiene, and to wear masks and other protective gear when working.

The Mainland has stepped up its monitoring of live pigs supplied to Hong Kong from registered farms since FEHD notified them about the laboratory results.