COLUMBUS — The number of cases of human influenza related to swine in Ohio grew to 30 on Aug. 8, following an announcement from the Ohio Department of Health.
The strand of influenza, H3N2v, was first confirmed from individuals exposed to swine at the Butler County Fair in late July.
To date, 16 cases have been confirmed in Butler County, four in Gallia County, four in Greene County, and three in both Hamilton and Clark counties.
Those with confirmed cases range in age from 6-36. One person has been hospitalized as a precaution, but was treated and released.
Dr. Ted Wymyslo, Director of the Ohio Department of Health, said there has been a “tremendous increase” in the amount of surveillance and said conditions so far are not alarming.
“We are not surprised by this increase in confirmed cases,” he said in a statement to media. “We are also aware the flu viruses are not uncommon in swine. Even as we identify additional illnesses, this strain appears to remain mild and does not seem to be any more severe than what we see during most flu seasons.”
The Ohio Department of Health and Department of Agriculture have been working together to educate fairgoers on proper hygiene and hand washing, which help prevent contamination.
“Although this strain of influenza does not appear to be severe, we want to make sure that local fair boards and veterinarians have all the support they need to continue monitoring the situation and to ensure that Ohioans can safely attend their county fairs,” said David Daniels, the state’s agriculture director. “We want to keep the people of Ohio healthy, just as we want to keep our animals healthy.”
Most county fairs contacted by Farm and Dairy said they still intend to have a regular swine program, but are taking extra precautions.
Terry Gier, hog barn supervisor for the Mercer County Fair, Aug. 10-16, said fair officials would be reviewing their action plan this evening — but expected it will consist of increased emphasis on hand sanitation and common sense when working with swine.
He said a veterinarian is usually present at the fair, and if a hog acts like it is sick, the vet can address the matter. He also expects cooler temperatures in the forecast will help reduce heat stress on animals, and keep them healthier for the fair.
Daryl Riffle, manager of the Darke County Fair, said it’s not the same virus that swept the country a couple years ago, but his staff is still “doing what we need to do” with advice from state and local health officials.
“We’re very fortunate that in Darke County our fair veterinarian is also the health department deputy registrar,” he said. “We’re being very proactive about it.”
Like many other fairs, the Darke County Fair also uses hand washing stations so visitors and exhibitors can wash hands when leaving the animal barns.
The Cuyahoga County Fair, Aug. 6-12, took a “proactive” approach by eliminating all swine from this year’s fair.
Tim Fowler, president of the fair board, said his staff felt it was safer not to have swine at the fair.
“Based on information that we had been receiving, we for this year eliminated or just canceled any swine exhibits or sales,” he said. “We took this in cooperation not only with ourselves but the Cuyahoga County Board of Health,” he said, as well as information they had reviewed from the fair veterinarian.
Fowler estimated the fair would normally include about 25 swine, and fewer than 10 of those would have been auctioned during the junior fair. He said fair officials are still considering a way to sell the hogs at auction, although the hogs won’t be present due to the ban.
The department of health and agriculture say attending fairs with swine is safe, but there are some basic precautions:
Wash your hands frequently with soap and running water before and after exposure to animals.
Never eat, drink or put things in your mouth in animal areas, and don’t take food or drink into animal areas.
Young children, pregnant women, people 65 and older and people with weakened immune systems should be extra careful around animals.
If you have animals – including swine – watch them for signs of illness and call a veterinarian if you suspect they might be sick.
Avoid close contact with animals that look or act ill, when possible.
Avoid contact with swine if you are experiencing flu-like symptoms.