As we roll into the main portion of what is called “fair season,” an interesting dilemma has cropped up at several fairs – the flu. Last weekend, the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention reported 12 cases of swine flu in three states – Ohio, Indiana and Hawaii, all cases connected to people who attended fairs or exhibited pigs.
While it does not have any confirmed cases, the Indiana State Fair dismissed most of its hogs after six pigs became sick on Monday.
“We consider this decision to be very prudent in light of what we have seen during the last several weeks at county fairs all over Indiana, as well as in other states," said Bret Marsh, the state veterinarian. "We've had an unusually high number of reports of illness associated with swine shows this season."
For youth involved in showing pigs, the flu is going to add an additional level of monitoring to their 4-H and FFA swine projects, staying alert for any changes to their animal’s health and well-being.
Hopefully, this will be the end of the cases, but both animal and human health departments won’t be taking it easy.
As the next wave of shows begins, fair officials will be working double-time to make sure the latest strain of swine flu doesn’t break out at additional fairs. Health officials are also taking the time to remind fairgoers to follow basic disease prevention rules such as washing hands thoroughly before and after petting or working with animals, and avoiding contact with sick-looking pigs.
-- Charlene M. Shupp Espenshade, special sections editor