LIMA — With the kickoff of the Allen County Fair today, it’s important for fairgoers to have fun, but also, to remember the importance of frequent hand washing or the use of hand sanitizers as a precaution to not catch swine flu.
Although relatively rare, there were 36 confirmed cases of H3N2v in Ohio, many at county fairs, this month as of last week; H3N2v is a variant of swine flu. The Ohio Department of Agriculture said most individuals likely became sick with the illness after exposure to swine.
In response, ODH and the Ohio Department of Agriculture have initiated an outreach plan to increase the awareness in Ohio of the H3N2v virus. Jay Begg, fair manager of the Allen County Fair, said they’ve also taken measures to ensure the safest environment at the fair.
“We’ve been in conversations with the Allen County Health Department for weeks,” he said. “We have quite a bit of educational pamphlets we will be handing out to the exhibitors. It’s mostly been pigs and people who care for the pigs who have really had any issues.”
But still, it’s important for everyone to take precautions. Begg said there will be signs around barn areas for those watching or handling pigs to wash their hands frequently. If a pig is suspected to be sick, there are steps fair staff will take to remedy that, too.
“We are going to have kind of an isolation area if we do know if a hog is showing symptoms,” he said, which would prevent the spread of the flu to people as well as to other pigs.
The first confirmed cases in the state this month were in Butler County, which ended up having 16 confirmed cases following a county fair. One person out of the 36 who were diagnosed this month was hospitalized, but has since been treated and released.
The ODA said anyone attending a fair with animals should be washing hands with soap and running water before and after exposure to animals; never eat, drink or bring food into animal areas; and avoid close contact with animals that look or act ill, when possible.
Begg said he’s hopeful there won’t be any problems with the flu.
“I hope we don’t have any issues,” he said. “We have everything in place we possibly could have.”
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