The Dallas County Fair has begun, a highlight of the summer season in rural Iowa, conjuring up memories of pony rides, stock car races, blue ribbons and livestock shows.
But the last thing you want is to get left out of the fun by catching the flu.
As we can see from the African swine fever now devastating East Asian herds, possibly at twice the rate of official reports, hogs can get sick, and they can be infected with swine influenza viruses that are different from human flu viruses.
Swine flu viruses spread among pigs and – while rare – they can also spread from pigs to people. Because of the risk, it is important to take extra precautions to protect yourself and the pigs in the livestock barn.
Influenza can be spread when infected pigs or people cough or sneeze. This can happen in a variety of settings, especially at fairs where pigs from many places come in close contact with one another and with people.
In order to protect those most likely to get infected and develop serious illness, the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention and the National 4-H headquarters recommend exhibitors — along with their friends and family — take the following actions to help prevent the spread of flu between pigs and people.
- If you are sick with flu-like illness, stay home to avoid spreading your illness.
- Watch your pigs closely at the fair for illness, such as loss of appetite, cough or runny nose. Call a veterinarian if you suspect illness.
- Wash your hands often with soap and running water before and after exposure to pigs. If soap and water are not available, use an alcohol-based hand rub.
- Don’t take toys, pacifiers, cups, bottles, strollers or similar items into the pig barn and show arenas. Avoid eating in the barns.
- Isolate your pigs when you return home. Seven days’ downtime at home is necessary for pigs to get over shedding influenza virus.
- Clean and disinfect any equipment brought back home from the show.