County fair has plan if virus becomes issue

Herald News Intern

A case of H3N2 variant influenza was reported in Indiana on Monday, the first reported in the state since 2013. An Indiana resident became ill after exposure to pigs during a county fair, which has since ended.

Dubois County Purdue Extension Agriculture and Natural Resources Educator Ken Eck said that while the Dubois County 4-H organization has not yet had any meetings or discussions about this issue regarding the upcoming 4-H Fair, they are aware of the case reported in the state.

The Indiana State Department of Health and the Indiana State Board of Animal Health are urging Hoosiers to take caution when visiting events, such as fairs, where pigs are exhibited.

According to the ISDH, the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention confirmed the positive H3N2 test results Friday. No details about the patient or the fair have been released to maintain the patient’s privacy. The patient is currently recovering.

Influenza viruses can be directly transmitted from pigs to people and from people to pigs, according to ISDH. This can occur when in close proximity to infected pigs, such as entering livestock barns or exhibits at fairs.

According to Dr. Grant Burcham, a veterinary diagnostician at Heeke Animal Disease Diagnostic Laboratory at the Southern Indiana Purdue Agriculture Center, eating and drinking within a barn or exhibit can also cause exposure to the viruses. Burcham noted that it’s important to know that these diseases cannot be spread through the consumption of pork or pork products.

“Diseases are always a concern,” Eck said, “With both swine and humans all in one place, they can be easily spread. It can be spread or caught by just one person.”

Because of this concern, the Dubois County 4-H organization always has a veterinarian on hand during the fair.

Eck said the first precaution the organization would take if concern would arise locally would be to contact the Indiana State Board of Animal Health, and the board would provide them with the appropriate protective measures and advise them on how severe the case is, what they should do and if they should close down the fair.

If an outbreak were to occur, Eck and the 4-H organization would meet to discuss if it is worth exhibiting swine, or even shutting down the fair.

Though H3N2 is a type of swine flu, it is not the strain that caused an outbreak in the county in 2014. The outbreak of the swine flu that occurred in 2014 was H1N1. Because of the outbreak, no hogs were shown at the Dubois County 4-H Fair that year.

The fair also excluded chicken exhibits in 2015 due to an outbreak of H7N8 in Dubois County, also know as the bird flu.

Since the threat in 2014, Eck said farmers have been taking precautions to prevent the spread of these influenza viruses through biosecurity.

According to the World Health Organization, biosecurity is a strategic and integrated approach to analyzing and managing relevant risks to human, animal and plant life and health, and associated risks for the environment. Biosecurity includes taking preventative measures to reduce the risk of transmission of infectious diseases to crops and livestock.

Eck said many farmers have a “neutral facility” when traveling to and from hog markets. This can often be an abandoned barn or old building that serves as a place to stop and clean out trucks and supplies before returning to the main farm or market.

If an employee is sick, they are not allowed to enter the hog buildings to prevent the spread of their illness.

“Similar precautions should be taken as one would regarding the seasonal flu,” Burcham said. “Proper hygiene and washing your hands can go a long way.”

The ISDH also advises people to wash their hands before and after attending pig exhibits, avoid eating and drinking in swine barns and stay home if you are sick with a flu-like illness. Exhibitors should minimize the number of people who have contact with the swine and notify a veterinarian that their animal might be ill.

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