Researchers offer tips to prevent swine flu in humans

The 2017 county fair season in the U.S. is nearing its close. Fewer and fewer weekends are filled with the bright lights of rapidly assembled Ferris wheels, the air is less filled with the scent of toasty elephant ears (non-Americans, check these out) and fewer animals are ambling into the trailer to be brought to the fair.

Fairs are exciting places to be for those who raise animals, but at times, difficult, as the spread of disease thanks to close quarters can bring heartbreaking results. The culling of animals exposed to diseases like swine flu can be an unpleasant necessity. The risk of human infections is also high.

“The ease with which viruses can pass between pigs and people and evolve into new, more concerning viruses illustrates the importance of continued monitoring of swine to detect viruses that can threaten animals and people,” said Andrew Bowman, leader of a recent study on swine flu.

The study, published by the University of Ohio, tracked human cases of swine flu following several agricultural fairs in 2016.

The team marked 18 cases of H3N2 swine flu associated with seven fairs in the states of Ohio and Michigan, noting that the infections occurred after exposure to flu-infected pigs. Most of the cases were mild, but genetically identical strains were found between the states, showing how fast viruses can spread.

After noting these cases, the team came up with a list of suggestions to help curtain the spread of disease in the summers to come.

  • A 72-hour limit to swine exhibits to interrupt widespread flu transmission between pigs and between pigs and people
  • Vaccinating pigs against swine flu
  • Posting signs to warn against eating and drinking near animal exhibits, and also with guidance to wash hands frequently
  • Supplying hand sanitizer
  • Redesigning the animal intake process so that they can’t touch the same surfaces with their snouts
  • Encouraging immunocompromised individuals (like kids, babies, senior citizens and those with immune system-weakening conditions) to skip the animal exhibits

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