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Swine flu continues to raise concerns at state fairs
08.24.2012On the heels of a swine flu outbreak at an Indiana State Fair early this month, some government officials and administrators of state fairs have advised that that anyone, and particularly children, who handles pigs take precautions to protect themselves from the virus.
The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) has said that 224 cases of swine flu, the technical term for which is novel influenza A, were reported in eight states between July 12 and August 12. The majority, 138 cases, were in Indiana, and Ohio has had the second biggest problem with swine flu with 72 confirmed cases. Eight people have been hospitalized for this disease that does not normally affect humans.
Symptoms in pigs include fever, depression, a bark-like cough, and discharge from the nose or eyes, although some infected pigs are asymptomatic. Mayo Clinic says swine flu symptoms in humans are virtually identical to normal flu symptoms, such as fever, cough, sore throat, chills, and body aches. As this particular strain doesn't appear to be contagious between humans, an urgent care facility or immediate care clinic could be a good place to get quick treatment.
A Savannah, Georgia NBC affiliate spoke with a member of the Savannah Exchange Club, whose fairgrounds will be host to the Coastal Empire Fair. The news source notes that pigs are quite popular at this fair, and according to state law, all animals must be examined before being allowed entry to the festivities. In reference to precautions for people, "We have two hand washing stations outside, plus the sanitizing station. The main responsibility [for individuals to adhere to] is don't let [children] pick up the straw and put it in their mouths, or take their pacifiers [with them] when they come in so they can't drop them and stick them in their mouths," Ted Akins of the Savannah Exchange Club told the television station.
He strongly cautioned parents against allowing their children to bring food into the petting zoo area, noting that children could drop their food in the straw pigs are playing in, and continue eating the food before his or her parents became aware of it.
CDC searches for explanation for swine flu epidemic
On Friday, the CDC announced the results of a study that showed that 20 percent of the pigs at a 2009 Minnesota state fair were ridden with the swine flu virus, even though they appeared perfectly healthy. The study's author told HealthCare that he believes the current strain of the virus is related to the one from three years ago.
"The new variant viruses that are circulating now in pigs and apparently affecting people at pig shows are offspring of the 2009 pandemic virus that spread throughout the world. It mixed with the viruses that were already present in pigs, and out has come a new progeny virus," said Gregory Gray, chairman of the University of Florida College of Public Health, as quoted by the news source.
Gray added that the spread of the virus from pigs to humans at state fairs validates his theory. Furthermore, the CDC encourages individuals hoping to avoid swine flu, but who plan on being around pigs at any point in the near future, to wash their hands before and after they're near the animals, and keep a distance from any pigs if they start to feel ill. Pregnant women and children less than five years old should avoid pigs altogether.
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