As the summer county and state fair season turns into the fall season, one thing has been on all livestock exhibitors, public health and ag officials and patrons minds: Swine Flu.
Ohioans began to hear about Swine Flu in early August when some patrons of the Butler County Fair were diagnosed with the virus, H3N2v. Some swine being exhibited at the fair were found to be sick with the virus and media and state agency reports at the time indicated most of the human victims were children who had come into contact with infected swine. The U.S. Centers for Disease Control and the Ohio Department of Health both report that kids are especially susceptible to Swine Flu because they haven’t had time to develop antibodies against the virus.
So far in Ohio there have been 72 cases of the flu in humans with most of them directly attributed to contact with pigs or hogs. There have been less than 10 hospitalizations, with all of those patients treated and released. There have been no deaths from this summer flu outbreak.
Public health officials at the state and federal level are continuing to monitor the situation closely, however. For now, there is no evidence that the virus is transmittable from human to human contact. The virus would need to mutate in one of its human victims in just the right way to spread from human to human and if it did, it would become a bigger problem for public health.
There are still several county fairs to occur around Ohio and the Ohio Dept. of Agricuture is teaming up with ODH to strengthen health precautions at swine exhibits around the state. At every county fair there will be daily health checks of pigs and hogs by a veterinarian. Several animals have already been removed from fairs, including two removed from the recent Ohio State Fair. ODA and ODH officials or their local designees will also be meeting face to face to with all swine exhibitors to discuss the virus, what to look for in their animals and the precautions that they and fair goers should take around livestock barns.
Some of the most common precautions for exhibitors and fair patrons include:
- Wash your hands often with soap and running water before and after exposure to pigs. If soap and water are not available, use an alcohol-based hand rub.
- Never eat, drink or put things in your mouth in pig areas, and don’t take food or drink into pig areas.
- Never take toys, pacifiers, spill-proof cups, baby bottles, strollers or similar items into pig areas.
Avoid close contact with pigs that look or act ill.
- Avoid contact with pigs if you are experiencing flu-like symptoms. Avoid contact for 7 days after symptoms begin or until you have been fever-free for 24 hours without the use of fever-reducing medications, whichever is longer.
- Watch your pigs for signs of illness and call a veterinarian if you suspect they might be sick.
- Children younger than 5 years, people 65 years and older, pregnant women, and people with certain chronic medical conditions (like asthma, diabetes, heart disease, weakened immune systems, and neurological or neurodevelopmental conditions) are at high risk from serious complications if they get influenza. These people should consider avoiding exposure to pigs and swine barns this fair season, especially if sick pigs have been identified.
- Take appropriate protective measures if you must come in contact with pigs if you are experiencing flu-like symptoms, or if you must be in the vicinity of pigs known or suspected to be infected with influenza viruses. Protective measures include wearing protective clothing, gloves, masks that cover your mouth and nose, and other personal protective equipment. Always cover coughs and sneezes, and wash your hands often.
The CDC reports that this year there have been 225 cases of Swine Flu in humans reported across the country. Ohio accounts for 72 of those and Indiana accounts for the largest share of the cases with 138 as of August 17.