Going to the Fair? Stay Away from Pigs

Swine flu cases linked to agricultural fairs

/ Author:  / Reviewed by: Robert Carlson, M.D

(RxWiki News) A day at the county fair is one of the hallmarks of summer in America. But you might want to skip the pig races this year: new swine flu cases have been linked to pigs at agricultural fairs.

The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) have reported 29 cases of a new strain of swine flu, including 12 cases reported just this week.

All of the recent cases involve people who had direct or indirect contact with swine, and 19 of them have been linked to fairs.

"At the fair or on the farm, take precautions near pigs."

The good news is that the illnesses have been mild so far, and none have progressed to a severe or potentially deadly form of flu.

The virus appears only to be transmitted from swine to human, and not human to human. Most of the cases involved children.

Adults may already have some degree of built-in immunity, but the CDC warned that people over 65 or people with certain medical conditions are at high risk for a more severe illness if they contract the virus.

Symptoms are similar to seasonal flu, and include fever, cough, runny nose, sore throat and muscle aches. The only way to differentiate swine flu from a normal flu is to identify contact with pigs, and do a diagnostic test specifically for the strain.

This swine flu is a different strain than the H1N1 swine flu pandemic in 2009. It's labeled H3N2v, and health officials are concerned because it contains a gene from the 2009 virus that might allow it to evolve towards human to human transmission.

So far, that hasn't happened. The virus is passed exclusively by contact with sick pigs – and the virus can easily be transmitted from pig to pig.

You can't get this illness by eating or handling pork products, either.

Fairs are a hotbed for exposure to swine flu, though, because more people are coming into contact with pigs being shown or featured in attractions.

Despite their calls for people not to be alarmed, the CDC is working on a vaccine for H3N2v. Clinical trials are being planned for this year.

Meanwhile, the CDC will closely watch the virus for signs that it is evolving into a human virus. The agency offered these tips for people who may be exposed to pigs at the fair or on the farm.

  • Wash your hands frequently with soap and running water before and after exposure to animals.
  • Never eat, drink or put things in your mouth while in animal areas and don’t take food or drink into animal areas.
  • Young children, pregnant women, people 65 and older and people with weakened immune systems should be extra careful around animals.
  • If you have animals – including swine – watch them for signs of illness and call a veterinarian if you suspect they might be sick.
  • Avoid close contact with animals that look or act ill, when possible.
  • Avoid contact with pigs if you are experiencing flu-like symptoms.
  • If you must come in contact with pigs while you are sick, or if you must come in contact with pigs known or suspected to be infected, or their environment, you should use appropriate protective measures (for example, wear protective clothing, gloves, masks that cover your mouth and nose and other personal protective equipment) and practice good respiratory and hand hygiene.
Reviewed by: 
Review Date: 
August 5, 2012
Last Updated:
October 5, 2012