ORONOKO CHARTER TOWNSHIP, Mich. (WOOD) — A human case of the swine flu, Influenza A (H1N2)v, has been detected in someone who had contact with the swine at the Berrien County Youth Fair last month, according to the Michigan Department of Health and Human Services.
The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention confirmed the case on Sept. 9. The Michigan Department of Agriculture and Rural Development and MDHHS are advising fairgoers to take precautions to avoid catching swine flu at fairs where swine are being shown.
Michigan’s fair season lasts through October. Allegan County’s is going on this week, with fair leaders ensuring vendors, staff members and visitors have peace of mind.
“We’re very hands-on, making sure everything is done every year,” said Saree Miller, executive director of the Allegan County Fair.
Those measures include having the Michigan Mixed Animal Veterinary Service on hand to help weigh in and check on the more than 285 hogs hoping to be best in show.
“They watch the animals come through, make sure they look healthy,” Miller explained. “They don’t necessarily examine the animal, but they are here to make sure everything’s good. Plus, they visit our fairgrounds daily and take care of everything.”
But as healthy as the pigs can be, their human counterparts need to take precautions, even though the risk of this strain of swine flu passing onto humans is minimal.
“It’s common cleanliness, really, and it’s practices that we work on every year,” Miller said. “It makes a big difference on the fair being a great place and a fun place to be.”
Michigan’s fair season lasts through October. The health department has outlined the following steps to help prevent swine flu:
- People at high risk of serious flu complications should avoid pigs and swine barns at fairs.
- Do not eat or drink in livestock barns or show rings.
- Do not take child’s toys, pacifiers, cups, baby bottles or strollers into pig areas.
- Avoid touching your eyes, nose and mouth.
- If you have flu-like symptoms, avoid pigs altogether.
- If you are sick, stay home from work or school until you are healthy again.
- Avoid close contact with sick people.
- Cover your nose and mouth with a tissue when you cough or sneeze. Then throw the tissue in the trash and wash your hands.
- Wash your hands with soap and water, or if those are not available, an alcohol-based hand sanitizer.
Signage displaying some of these tips are posted throughout the Allegan County fairgrounds.
Swine flu is a respiratory disease that commonly affects pigs. The virus does not usually spread to humans, but human infections have been reported. You can only catch swine flu from contact with an ill pig, not from eating properly prepared pork or from pork products, said MDHHS.
According to the health department, symptoms can include fever, cough, runny nose, sometimes body aches, nausea, vomiting or diarrhea. Rarely, swine flu in humans can lead to severe diseases like pneumonia or death, according to the health department.
Children younger than 5, people 65 or older, pregnant women and people with certain chronic health issues like asthma, diabetes, heart disease, weakened immune systems and neurological conditions are at a higher risk of developing complications, the health department said.
If you think you may have swine flu, the Berrien County Health Department advises you to talk with your primary care physician and ask about a test to confirm. If you have concerns, contact the BCHD at 269.926.7121.
There is no vaccine for swine flu, MDHHS said. They advise the use of antiviral drugs like Tamiflu and Relenza if you have the illness.
Other strains of swine flu have been detected in August in West Virginia, Oregon and Ohio. In four of those five cases, the patients reported that they had been exposed to pigs or went to an agricultural fair before the illness. There were no hospitalizations or death, and no person-to-person spread found in those cases. For more information, visit the National Association of Public Health Veterinarians or the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention website.