Nearly 300 pigs culled at county fair after swine flu discovery

A county fair in the U.S. state of Ohio took an unfortunate turn this month when the discovery of swine flu in at least one animal led to state officials ordering the culling of nearly 300 pigs.

The barn was quarantined and disinfected after a case of the H3N2 strain was identified. The strain can be passed to humans, and is commonly spread at agricultural fairs, but no human cases were reported at the Ohio fair.

Officials said culling the animals was sad, but necessary. Exhibitors — many of them children — have to say goodbye to animals they worked hard to lovingly raise, and the financial costs can be high. But oftentimes those losses are deemed necessary to prevent even bigger losses. Animals that end up contaminated with a virus can return home and expose the rest of their herd.

After the first pig at the Ohio fair began to seem feverish, it only took a few days for several more to follow suit.

“With the hot temperatures and high humidity, it stressed the pigs enough and caused disease,” said state veterinarian Tony Forshey, who was involved with the fair.

“This spread very rapidly, so we had to take some immediate response, which we did,” he told Ohio’s Country Journal. “When you have this many pigs sick and the viral loads are so high, the risk of this spreading if we sent them back home would be pretty high.”

What are the symptoms of swine flu in pigs? Pigs may go off feed, act lethargic, get a fever and/or start to cough. Farmers are urged to monitor their animals carefully and to not bring sick animals to the fair — no matter the species or illness. Forshey also suggests that exhibitors not bring animals recently returning from one fair to another fair within a week, as a virus may be incubating in the animal during that time.

“We have veterinarians at every fair, and they have to do daily walkthroughs, but the exhibitors are the ones who are key,” said Forshey. “They know if something is wrong with their pig and have to notify the fair veterinarian or barn superintendent quickly if it is an influenza situation so we can get them isolated, and so we don’t increase the viral load in that barn.

“It needs constant monitoring, constant sanitation, and washing hands several times a day — those are the sorts of things that are important to keep the viral load down,” Forshey said.

For more information on swine flu and how to prevent its spread, check out our previous blog post here.

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