For a lot of people, summertime means cook-outs, block parties, and of course, state and county fairs. But, what if a visit to a prize-winning pig pen lands you in the hospital with the flu?
Several fair-goers in Ohio, who came in contact with sick animals during a county fair, ended up with confirmed cases of a new strain of swine flu. County fairs in our region are in full swing, and one festival's president says, under his watch, animals are not a threat to human health.
"I've been on the board for 17 years and I've never heard of an instance where someone had gotten ill from being in with the animals." -says Ogle County Fair Association President Harlan Holm.
Organizers believe precautions taken before and during the Ogle County Fair might play a role in keeping fair-goers healthy. Animals need approval from the state prior to being shown. This includes blood tests to check for contagious diseases. But, health monitoring continues all fair long.
"We have a fair veterinarian, and he's here when all the animals are checked in. He walks through the barns on a regular basis, checking the animals. If there should be one that gets sick, he either treats it, or he can send it home." -adds Holm.
Signs posted on every barn warn people to wash their hands at one of the many portable soap and water stations, and keep food and drink away from the animal's pens. The same applies for animal-handlers, but, busy days occasionally put rules on the back burner.
"We try not to eat in the pig barn, sometimes it happens, but most of the time we do not. We'll go down to the camper and clean up, eat some lunch, and then come back up and work with the hogs." -says prize-winning pig-handler Brice Hintzsche.
Another pig-handler, who's only 10 years old, already knows how to keep herself and her animals safe around the pen.
"After I'm with the pigs, I wash my hands. During the shows, we always brush them down, and wash our hands after that." -says Emma Thurow.
The H3N2 virus differs from H1N1 not only by name, but, it's also not spreading as easily among people.
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