Swine flu heats up as fair season kicks off
by Matt Shinall
Sep 09, 2012 | 3484 views | 0 0 comments | 17 17 recommendations | email to a friend | print
As fall returns, so will fairs and livestock shows across the state and nation. Officials are urging “common-sense” precautions this year as the country is seeing an outbreak of H3N2v, a swine flu variant.

H3N2v was found in swine, or pigs, in America in 2010 and in humans in 2011. After recording 12 confirmed cases last year, the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention have already reported 297 confirmed cases in 2012.

Although this variant of swine flu is relatively mild, health officials are encouraging caution for at-risk groups, including children under 5, those with respiratory disease, people with neurological or neurodevelopmental conditions, pregnant women and those over 65. Swine flu is not spread by eating pork or pork products. It is spread only by direct or indirect contact with infected pigs.

“The H3N2 is a relatively mild type of flu, but we still need to take certain precautions about it. It’s a flu virus normally found in swine and pigs,” said Northwest Georgia Public Health Department Public Information Officer Logan Boss. “Most of these infections have occurred in children and have been very mild with few hospitalizations and there is no reason people should avoid these swine exhibitions.

“The risk here of this type of flu is minimal, but we’re especially trying to educate and reach young people. ... We want all young people who might be participating in youth livestock competitions to be mindful and use those common sense training they received from their 4-H and Future Farmers of America advisors.”

While Georgia has not seen any confirmed cases of H3N2v, the first death was reported on Aug. 31 by the Ohio Department of Health. Most of the 297 cases have occurred in Ohio and Indiana with 102 cases and 138 cases respectively.

Bartow County Extension Agent Paul Pugliese echoes the advice of Georgia Agricultural Commissioner Gary Black in a release on the subject. Hand washing is the easiest and most effective way of protecting against the virus. If attending a fair with livestock events, such as the Gordon County Fair beginning this weekend, Pugliese advises not taking food or allowing children to carry toys into the barn.

“Bartow County will have a livestock show out at the Saddle Club arena, but we don’t do a swine show any longer,” Pugliese said. “But the Gordon County and Coosa Valley fairs have swine shows every year and those are probably the closest, but a lot of metro Atlanta counties like Gwinnett have a big livestock show every year and they have swine there every year, too. So it’s just an awareness when people are going out to these type of events and livestock shows, they just need to be more cautious about their surroundings and what they’re doing.

“It’s OK to go see and experience the livestock, but you just need to use some common sense to minimize your exposure and risk.”

For more information, read Pugliese’s column “County Extension Office Call of the Week” inside today’s issue of The Daily Tribune News or visit www.cdc.gov/flu/swineflu/h3n2v-outbreak.htm.