WASHINGTON, April 26 (UPI) -- U.S. officials said Sunday there is no evidence the outbreak of swine flu has affected swine and consumers cannot get the virus from eating pork.
"There is no evidence at this time showing that swine have been infected with this virus," Secretary of Agriculture Tom Vilsack said in a statement.
Citing scientists at the Department of Agriculture and the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, Vilsack said swine flu viruses are not transmitted by food "so you cannot get swine flu from eating pork or pork products." Vilsack reminded consumers that food must be properly handled and cooked to kill viruses and other foodborne pathogens.
"USDA has in place, and did so before the last week's events, a surveillance system to monitor animal health," Vilsack said. "As an additional precautionary measure, I have asked USDA to reach out to agriculture officials in every state to affirm that they have no signs of this virus type in their state."
U.S. Department of Homeland Security Secretary Janet Napolitano said Sunday she has declared a public health emergency to free up funds to fight the virus' spread and to release one-quarter of the government's stockpile of anti-virus medications Tamiflu and Relenza.
Richard Besser, acting director of the U.S. Centers for Disease Control, said his agency has confirmed 20 non-fatal cases of swine flu within the Unites States, including eight cases found among New York City high school students. The other cases were detected in Ohio, Kansas, Texas and seven in California.