No change to swine show or exhibits at Illinois State Fair
Illinois State Fair officials are taking some extra precautions after a new variant of influenza sent several pigs home from the Indiana State Fair, but shows and exhibits will continue as usual when the fair opens in Springfield on Friday.
The Centers for Disease Control have confirmed cases of an influenza variant A in Ohio, Indiana and Illinois from contact with pigs at county and state fairs in those states. Although it seems to be a new strain, it is not necessarily cause for alarm.
“It’s important to remember that flu viruses are constantly changing in both animals and the human population,” said Tim Maiers, director of public relations with the Illinois Pork Producers Association. “This variant Influenza A virus that is currently going around contains components of human, avian and swine influenzas. That’s not unusual to have those influenzas that have those different strains and they adapt and go from one species to the next, and movement of those between humans and animals is not uncommon.”
The H3N2v strain is producing normal flu symptoms in pigs and those symptoms are sometimes being transferred to people who have contact with the pigs. It is a respiratory virus and is spread that way. Maiers said basic hygiene goes a long way and encouraged people always to wash hands before and after coming in contact with animals.
“We’ve taken some extra precautions for the Illinois State Fair, as far as the birthing center that we have at the state fair where we’ve got our sows and piglets. We’ve got some extra sanitizing stations throughout that exhibit and some signs up reminding people to keep the pigs and them healthy and keep their hands washed on a regular basis,” said Maiers.
Maiers said so far the virus is mild and it does not seem to be passing from human to human. It does seem to be more prevalent in children, which is likely because they haven’t built up the immunities many adults have, and they are more likely to put hands near their face or mouth.
“I don’t think it’s anything that people need to be alarmed about. The people that have been confirmed with cases have had normal flu symptoms – fever, cough, runny nose, muscle aches, those sorts of things. Everybody has recovered and there haven’t been any serious cases,” Maiers said. “And at this point we’re not seeing it transferred from people to people like we did with H1N1. It’s basically just from the pigs to the people.”
Maiers also stressed that people cannot catch the H3N2v virus from eating or handling pork or pork products.
While pigs sometimes do travel from Indiana State Fair to Illinois State Fair for exhibition, fair officials will be doing appropriate testing and taking precautions to be sure pigs sent home from Indiana State Fair with flu-like symptoms do not further spread the virus to other venues.
Maiers said pigs in the Illinois Pork Producers Assocation birthing center will be checked on a daily basis by veterinarian for flu symptoms.
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