Are you heading to your state or county fair this summer? If so, take precautions when interacting with the pigs. Babe and Wilbur may be cute, but pigs can pose a risk to your health because of a virus they can carry, known as swine flu.
In June, the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention announced that swine flu infections — known as H3N2v — had been detected in four people who had visited a fair in Indiana. This isn’t the first time such cases have occurred — swine flu cases in people were linked to fair pigs last year as well.
Symptoms of swine flu infection are similar to seasonal flu, and can include fever and respiratory symptoms, such as cough and runny nose. Other symptoms can include body aches, nausea, vomiting or diarrhea.
Because agricultural fairs bring many pigs into close contact with each other, the risk of spreading the swine flu virus is higher between pigs and people. Swine flu is thought to spread from pigs to people when sick pigs cough and sneeze, but pigs that don’t look sick may also be able to spread the virus.
Take extra caution near pigs if you have young children, are pregnant, older than 65 or have underlying health issues. CDC recommends that people at high risk for flu complications avoid pigs at fairs altogether.
Here are some recommendations to protect yourself against the virus:
• Avoid close contact with pigs. If you must come in close contact with them, wear protective clothing such as gloves and masks that cover your mouth and nose.
• Wash your hands often with soap and warm water before and after exposure to pigs.
• Don’t take food or drinks near pigs. Do not eat, drink or put anything in your mouth when in pig areas.
• Do not take toys, pacifiers, cups, baby bottles, strollers or other children’s items into pig areas.
For more information about swine flu, visit CDC’s website.