Swine flu linked to another Ohio fair
Written by JAN LARSON McLAUGHLIN Sentinel County Editor
Friday, 03 August 2012 10:11
Local health officials want people to be aware of swine flu cases linked to a county fair in southwest Ohio. But they also want fairgoers to know that it is safe to stroll through the swine barns and pig out on the pork-a-lean sandwiches.
Ohio Department of Health and Ohio Department of Agriculture officials investigating illnesses linked to an Ohio county fair have confirmed a strain of swine flu in nine cases. The officials have also determined the Ohio illnesses match the virus that recently infected four people at an Indiana fair, according to the Associated Press.
Up to 41 people, nearly all of them children, have become sick with symptoms like those of a swine flu strain, AP reported. And Thursday, two pigs were sent home from the Ohio State Fair because they have the swine flu virus.
Word of the swine flu, set local health officials into action.
"We immediately put together a fact sheet," for Wood County Fair officials, said Brad Espen, director of environmental services at the Wood County Health Department.
The fact sheet lists some common sense precautions, such as washing hands after being near livestock, and not consuming food in animal areas of the fair.
The tips are simply proactive suggestions, according to Pat Snyder, public information officer for the county health department.
"The risk is there, but it's relatively small," she said.
Most importantly, the health officials are stressing that it is safe to attend local fairs. And swine flu can't be contracted by consuming pork.
"It cannot be transmitted by eating pork products," Espen said.
The southwest Ohio cases are linked to the Butler County Fair, which ended last weekend. According to the Associated Press, officials are asking doctors there and throughout Ohio to be alert to patients with flu symptoms, especially if they've attended a fair or have had other contact with hogs or with people who have.
The Wood County Health Department provided the fair board with the following swine flu facts:
• The fair provides an environment where swine may more likely get sick due to the heat and stress and co-mingling of animals.
• Animals should be watched for signs of illness and veterinarians should be called if a sickness is suspected.
• Young children, pregnant women and people 65 and older should be extra careful around animals.
• People should wash hands thoroughly or use hand sanitizers after leaving areas with livestock. Hands should not be dried on clothing.
• Keep food and drinks out of animal areas.
• Influenza viruses such as H3N2 and its variants are not unusual in swine and can be directly transmitted from swine to people and from people to swine in the same way that all viruses can be transmitted between people.
• No one who has gotten ill with the novel influenza has been hospitalized. There have been no reports of severe illness.
• Swine that are sick with influenza will get over the illness.
• Swine influenza has not been shown to be transmissible to people through eating properly handled and prepared pork (pig meat) or other products derived from pigs.
• Swine flu symptoms include cough, sore throat, fever and body aches, and possibly nausea and diarrhea.
Espen said the local fair board has been very responsive in the past to public health issues. For example, when suggested, the board installed a hand sanitizer station in Babyland, where fairgoers sometimes handle animals.
"The fair board has been excellent to work with," he said. "They've always been very cooperative."
Ohioans who have direct, routine contact with swine, such as working in swine barns or showing swine at fairs, and have experienced cough or influenza-like illness should contact their health care provider or local health department.
"Most of the time it's people who have close contact with animals," who are most at risk, Snyder said.
More information is available from CDC at: http://www.cdc.gov/flu/spotlights/safe-fair-going.htm