Swine flu is a common problem during fair season. Pigs are susceptible to many strains of flu and have the ability to transmit it to humans. It’s important for fair organizers, visitors and pork exhibitors to have a comprehensive plan in place to reduce the risk of swine flu transmission.
By following preventative strategies before, during and after the fair, we can improve biosecurity and hygiene practices.
Having a good prevention plan in place will keep both visitors and exhibitors safe from a potential outbreak this year, while routine maintenance will continue to reduce the risk of swine flu for years to come.
Here are some things that organizers should keep in mind before the fair:
- Plan to limit the amount of time the pigs are crowded together.
- Disinfect any equipment that will be used during weighing and identification procedures, including gates, chutes and sort panels.
- Make plans to keep a veterinarian on call throughout the fair.
- Have an established protocol to remove infected swine immediately.
- Have an established isolation area setup for sick pigs.
- Keep records of individual swine identification and source farms to improve the speed and accuracy of an animal disease investigation.
- Collect contact information from exhibitors, so you can contact them about procedural changes, requests for information or incidents associated with the fair.
- Keep contact information for local and state health officials on hand.
- Locate food service areas away from animal barns.
- Locate livestock barns away from other event areas.
- Make hand washing stations available near the exits of the exhibition areas.
Here are some things organizers can do to reduce the possibility of swine flu infection during the fair:
- Review regulations with exhibitors.
- Provide contact information for the on call veterinarian.
- Go over animal disease prevention protocol, including the daily monitoring of animals during the show.
- Give instructions on how to report illnesses and explain protocol for dealing with sick animals.
- Give instructions on what to do if exhibitors or family members develop flu-like illnesses.
- Clean and disinfect equipment used during weighing and identification procedures between pigs from different families or every six to eight pigs handled.
- Disinfect wash areas at least once each day.
- Discourage sleeping in animal areas.
- Limit public exposure by only allowing foot traffic through one area of the pig barn, and asking visitors not to touch the pigs.
- When there is an outbreak of flu-like illness, notify public health officials immediately and implement your protocol plan.
- Post the following messages for visitors:
- People and animals can share germs.
- Wash your hands with soap and water before you enter and when you leave the barn.
- No food or drink in animal areas.
- Remove pacifiers and avoid hand-to-mouth contact.
- People 65 years and older, children younger than five years old, pregnant women, and people with chronic health conditions or a weak immune system are at higher risk for serious illness.
After the fair is over thoroughly clean all of the areas and equipment that came into contact with the pigs.
Before fair season even starts, exhibitors are tasked with raising healthy pigs to take to the market. Here are some tips to improve biosecurity and cleanliness:
- Consult a veterinarian to implement swine health practices at home.
- Learn to recognize signs of flu — fever, loss of appetite, nasal discharge, inactivity, high respiration or heart rate, sneezing, coughing or barking.
- Isolate sick pigs for at least seven days and seek veterinary assistance.
- If you’ve had a sick pig on your farm, make sure its illness has not spread. Sick pigs need to stay home, so infection is not spread.
- Make sure you understand fair protocol for reporting and preventing swine flu.
- Clean all tack, feeders, waterers, and show supplies before bringing them to the fair.
- If you’ve recently been to another show, give your pig at least seven days of quarantine to ensure its health before showing it again.
- Talk about swine flu vaccines with your veterinarian.
During the fair take these precautions to avoid swine flu infection:
- Don’t share tack with other exhibitors, and disinfect it between uses.
- Monitor your pigs closely for signs of flu.
- Report flu-like symptoms immediately, so your pig can be evaluated right away.
- When swine flu has been discovered, the infected pig should be isolated.
- Take precautions when caring for a sick pig by limiting the number of people exposed to it, washing your hands with soap and water after coming into contact with a sick pig, cleaning equipment after use and avoiding taking bedding and other material from a sick pig’s pen through areas where healthy pigs are kept.
After you’ve returned from the fair, take the following steps to keep your farm and other animals safe from potential infection:
- Isolate your pig and observe it for signs of infection for no less than seven days.
- Clean and disinfect any equipment you took with you — tack, waterers, feeders, show equipment, clothing, shoes, and vehicles/trailers that were at the fair.
- Call your veterinarian if your pig becomes sick.
As a group, visitors have the least amount of contact with the animals, the least say in their care and housing and the least amount of experience. However, it’s still important to take precautions to keep themselves and the animals safe.
It starts with making good decisions before attending the fair:
- Individuals experiencing flu-like symptoms before the fair should stay home.
- People who are at high risk for flu complications should make a point to avoid the swine barns. Individuals at an elevated risk include children younger than five years old, people 65 years and older, pregnant women and people with certain long-term health conditions.
At the fair, visitors are encouraged to practice good hygiene in and around the swine barns. Here are some tips from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention:
- Don’t take food or drink into pig areas; don’t eat, drink or put anything in your mouth in pig areas.
- Don’t take toys, pacifiers, cups, baby bottles, strollers or any other belongings of small children into pig areas.
- Avoid contact with pigs that look or act ill.
- Wash your hands often with soap and running water before and after entering pig barn. If soap and water are not available, use an alcohol-based hand sanitizer.
- Avoid contact with pigs if you have flu symptoms.
If you experience flu-like symptoms after the fair, contact your physician and tell them about any exposure to pigs that may be related.
- First case of swine flu serves as reminder
- Swine flu detection prompts reminder about good hygiene at fairs
- Michigan State University Extension
- Centers for Disease Control and Prevention
- National Assembly of State Animal Health Officials, National Association of State Public Health Veterinarians
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