WELLINGTON — Baby pigs are usually a hit with fairgoers, but this year people are being asked to show a little caution when visiting the Lorain County Fair on Aug. 20 to 26 because of swine flu outbreaks elsewhere in the state.
“Probably we’ll ask people not to let kids go nose-to-nose with pigs,” said the fair’s veterinarian Dr. William Fox.
There are 249 market pigs signed up for the Lorain County Junior Fair, according to Fair Board Director Tom Hines.
The pig barns will be open to the public as usual, according to Fox, who said it will be strongly suggested that children do not pet pigs.
Signs will be put up telling anyone touching any pigs or items in the pig barn to sanitize their hands, according to Fox.
Anyone not wanting their children to be near pigs should stay out of designated areas, he said.
Should any animal show signs of illness, the pig would be removed to a special area and quarantined, Fox said.
Fox and Hines said the situation still could change, but they are proceeding with plans to closely monitor the pigs and to inform the public of safety precautions.
“It’s going to be business as usual with the pigs at the fair — we’ll just be a little more cautious,” Fox said.
In the past week or two, about 30 people have contracted the strain of swine flu, called H3N2, elsewhere in Ohio, and Cuyahoga County decided not to have swine at its fair this week.
Fox said just three pigs were going to be exhibited in Cuyahoga County, and the cost of monitoring those animals probably played a part in the decision not to have swine at that fair.
Fox and Hines said they are following directions from the Ohio Department of Agriculture and the state veterinarian, Dr. Tony Forshey, who are stressing the need to carefully monitor animals for temperatures exceeding 105 degrees.
As veterinarian for the county fair, Fox said he gets daily updates from Forshey. Temperatures will be taken on pigs that show any signs of sickness, and any pig with a temperature of 105 degrees or higher and exhibiting sickness will be quarantined, according to Fox.
An area will be set up where no public is not allowed and the pigs will be sent home if the state veterinarian mandates their removal, according to Fox.
During the market pig auction, food for buyers will be kept out of the auction area, and all buyers will be asked to use sanitizer if they have handled any pig items or after eating food.
Hines said he took part in a conference call this week with the Ohio Department of Agriculture, which assured him there is no risk of contracting H3N2 from eating pork.
As fair veterinarian, Fox said he has sole authority over the health of animals and possible diseases related to the fair. He said the Lorain County General Health District will work with him to ensure a safe and healthy fair, as related to farm animals, and no other veterinarians are allowed on the grounds to treat any animal unless they have his permission.
Hand sanitizers have been made available in every barn and at every food stand after 23 people became ill from E. coli at the fair a decade ago, said Kenneth Pearce, the health district’s director.
H3N2, the form of swine flu reported in recent weeks in Ohio and Indiana, “is not a very strong virus,” said Erica Pitchford, spokeswoman for the Ohio Department of Agriculture.
“It’s a very mild flu,” she said. “The confirmed cases have all been people who had direct contact with the animals.
“If you’re concerned, don’t pet the animals,” Pitchford said. “For some people, (the fair) is their only opportunity to experience these farm animals, but maybe take a step back.”
Pearce said H3N2 is quite mild — a 24-hour flu.
Nonetheless, Fox said caution is advised, especially for the very young.
“If a child doesn’t have any resistance to it, it could be devastating,” Fox said.
Symptoms of the infection include cough, sore throat, fever, body aches and possibly nausea and diarrhea.
Ohio officials are asking doctors throughout the state to watch for patients with flu symptoms, especially if they have attended a fair or have had other contact with hogs or with people who have come in contact with the animals.
Contact Cindy Leise at 329-7245 or firstname.lastname@example.org.