First case of swine flu serves as reminder

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(Farm and Dairy file photo) Photo by Kurt Stepnitz/Michigan State University

SALEM, Ohio — The Ohio Department of Agriculture and Department of Health are reminding fairgoers and exhibitors to practice good hygiene at fairs, following the state’s first positive test of swine flu at a county fair.

The sick animal involved a pig from the Clinton County Fair, and officials believe other swine may have been affected by the H3N2 flu virus as well, based on signs of sickness during the show, which was held July 13.

Ohio’s state veterinarian, Tony Forshey, put a quarantine on the swine barn during the show, according to ODA Communications Director Mark Bruce.

Exhibitors were able to finish showing their animals, but the show was limited to exhibitors and their families, as a precaution. The decision was also made to make the show terminal — meaning all animals had to be slaughtered after the show.

Market animals

Scot Gerber, president of the Clinton County Agricultural Society, said the decision affected nearly 300 head of swine, which were all market animals. He said most would have ended up slaughtered anyway, although some could have potentially been kept for other uses, including breeding.

He said champion animals are required to be terminal every year, and that exhibitors have to understand that when there’s a health issue, all animals could be made terminal. The county’s fair book also notes that exhibits and shows may be canceled, if a quarantine is issued by the state.

“This is the understanding in the industry, that if you’re going to participate in these shows, they could be terminal,” Gerber said.

The outbreak at the Clinton County has not been shown to have affected any humans, and Gerber said the fair has mostly continued as usual — except the swine barn is empty and locked down.

Animal sale

Gerber said the fair’s custom is to only runs champion animals through the sale ring — and that exhibitors will still sell their hogs — just without the animal present. Exhibitors will also still receive their premiums, he said.

“Those kids are not going to be hurt financially,” Gerber said. “They will go through our sale as normal.”

Some swine typically test positive for the flu virus each year, and hot, humid conditions can worsen the occurrence, according to ODA.

Advice to follow

According to the state, fair visitors should always wash their hands with soap and water before and after petting or touching any animal.

Never eat, drink or put anything in your mouth in animal areas.

Parents and caregivers are encouraged to leave strollers outside the animal exhibits and carry small children. Older adults, pregnant women, young children and people with weakened immune systems should consider avoiding animal areas.

“Fairs are the highlight of the summer in many communities for many families across Ohio and we want to ensure they stay that way,” said ODA Director David T. Daniels, in a released statement. “Maintaining healthy people and animals is our top priority, and we encourage all fair guests to follow posted signs and make smart decisions when visiting the fair.”

ODA is working with fair boards to increase access to hand sanitizers and hand-washing stations. Frequent hand-washing can lower your risk of getting sick from influenza, salmonella, e. Coli and other illnesses.

In addition, ODA has provided information and encouraged fair organizers to post reminders about good hygiene in animal areas to help protect the health of fairgoers. Ohio’s fair veterinarians are trained and encouraged to closely monitor fair livestock and poultry for clinical signs of illness.

Exhibitors who believe their animal may be sick should immediately contact their barn manager and fair veterinarian. Fair guests who experience illness should contact a medical professional, and their local health district.

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