Evidence of influenza A infection and risk of transmission between pigs and farmworkers

Interspecies transmission of influenza A virus (IAV) between pigs and people represents a threat to both animal and public health. To better understand the risks of influenza transmission at the human-animal interface, we evaluated 1) the rate of IAV detection in swine farmworkers before and after work during two human influenza seasons, 2) assessed risk factors associated with IAV detection in farmworkers and 3) characterized the genetic sequences of IAV detected in both workers and pigs. Of 58 workers providing nasal passage samples during 8-week periods during the 2017/18 and 2018/19 influenza seasons, 33 (57%) tested positive by rRT-PCR at least once. Sixteen (27%) workers tested positive before work and 24 (41%) after work. At the sample level, 58 of 1,785 nasal swabs (3.2%) tested rRT-PCR positive, of which 20 of 898 (2.2%) were collected prior to work and 38 of 887 (4.3%) after work. Although farmworkers were more likely to test positive at the end of the working day (OR = 1.98, 95% CI 1.14-3.41), there were no influenza-like illness (ILI) symptoms, or other risk indicators, associated with IAV detection before or after reporting to work. Direct whole-genome sequencing from samples obtained from worker nasal passages indicated evidence of infection of a worker with pandemic 2009 H1N1 of human-origin IAV (H1-pdm 1A 3.3.2) when reporting to work, and exposure of several workers to a swine-origin IAV (H1-alpha 1A 1.1) circulating in the pigs on the farm where they were employed. Our study provides evidence of 1) risk of IAV transmission between pigs and people, 2) pandemic H1N1 IAV infected workers reporting to work and 3) workers exposed to swine harbouring swine-origin IAV in their nasal passages temporarily. Overall, our results emphasize the need to implement surveillance and transmission preventive protocols at the pig/human interface.