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Faculty epidemiologist provides precautions for fairgoers to avoid swine flu

by Jill Scoggins, HSC communications and marketing last modified Aug 15, 2012 10:50 AM

Kentucky State Fair patrons should be aware but not fearful of contracting swine flu, provided they adhere to some common-sense precautions, said University of Louisville epidemiologist and assistant professor of medicine Forest Arnold.

More than 160 cases of swine flu have been reported in Indiana and Ohio. In Kentucky, no cases have been reported, but veterinarians are refusing entry of pigs with symptoms such as coughing, sneezing or labored breathing into the state fair in Louisville, which starts Thursday, Aug. 16.

All cases of the current strain of swine flu — known as “H3N2v” — appear to be the variant strain that is able to spread from pigs to humans. “This indicates it is not very contagious and does not transmit person-to-person well, but it is possible,” Arnold said.

“You can get swine flu from sick pigs but the Kentucky State Fair and the Kentucky Department of Agriculture will be looking out for you by inspecting all pigs before they are shown at the fair,” he said.

For the best protection, Arnold recommended:

  • “Stay out of the face of a sick pig.” The flu is transmitted most often via the eyes, nose or mouth, so keeping your face out of a pig’s face is advised.
  • “Wash your hands frequently.” Always a good recommendation to prevent illness, washing your hands is especially important after you have been around pigs.
  • “Be sure your children limit exposure to pigs’ faces and wash their hands immediately after viewing them.” Children especially enjoy the livestock shows at the state fair, so it is important that they follow precautions, as well.
  • “Be aware if you are at a greater risk.” The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention warns people at high risk of contracting any flu, such as those 65 or older, pregnant or with chronic conditions such as asthma or diabetes, to avoid all contact with pigs.
  • “Continue to enjoy eating pork and pork products.” Swine flu is not transmitted by eating pork that has been cooked to a temperature of at least 170 degrees because the heat kills the flu-causing virus.

“Applying these precautions should allow for everyone to enjoy the fair,” Arnold said.

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