Cutting down on swine flu and bird flu at county fairs

The county fair is a good place to go to share agricultural achievements, show off animals, and maybe indulge in some kettle corn or a ride on the Ferris wheel. It’s not a place where anyone — human or animal —goes with a plan to get sick.

That said, sicknesses do happen. County fairs in the past have been associated with human outbreaks of swine flu and avian flu, and the events also come with risks of disease spreading among animals being exhibited.

Everyone who attends fairs, either as a visitor or as an exhibitor, can arm themselves with knowledge and take real steps to protect against disease. For example, fair organizers can ensure that facilities are well-ventilated, disinfected according to strict biosecurity standards, and that shows are limited to 72 hours or less to limit the time viruses can spread.

Below are some other things to keep in mind.

Regarding animals

  • Pigs don’t have to be visibly sick to spread swine flu. Though the symptoms are lethargy, fever and coughing, pigs don’t have to be showing symptoms to be carrying the virus. Symptoms might not always be obvious in poultry, as well.
  • After a fair, all animals exhibited should be kept in isolation for a full week after returning home, to prevent shedding any virus to the rest of the herd or flock.
  • Pigs can be vaccinated against swine flu.

Regarding people

  • According to the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, most people infected with swine flu are younger than 18 years old. Oftentimes, this means the kids who raise and exhibit pigs for the fairs.
  • Eating or drinking in the show barn can increase your chances of intaking a virus, so keep the elephant ears elsewhere on the fairgrounds.
  • Wash your hands before entering and leaving the showgrounds. Also, use hand sanitizer between washings.
  • It might be best to leave toddlers and babies at home for the county fair, because their immune systems are more susceptible to viruses.

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