Northland News

Ohio State Fair officials look to minimize swine flu threat


Responding to an outbreak of swine flu in Indiana, local health officials are asking Ohio State Fair patrons to protect themselves from the disease.

Those who visit animal barns are being advised to take a number of precautions, such as washing hands with soap and water before and after touching an animal, and avoiding face-to-face contact with livestock.

Some illnesses, including H3N2v - or swine flu - are commonly carried by livestock and can be directly transmitted between animals and humans, officials said.

The state fair will welcome 20,000 animals and up to 850,000 visitors from July 24 through Aug. 4 at the Ohio Expo Center, 717 E. 17th Ave.

That poses a real danger for those who attend, said Jose Rodriguez, spokesman for Columbus Public Health.

Plus, at least a dozen people have been sickened at local fairs in Indiana, making the situation that much more urgent, Rodriguez said.

"This a novel virus, a kind of a new virus, so we really don't know how this season is going to progress," he said.

"That's why we watch them so closely, because there are things we can learn."

Health officials recommend parents of small children leave sippy cups, pacifiers and strollers outside animal barns and that they carry their young ones in the barns.

According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, H3N2v has infected 325 people in 13 states since 2011.

Almost one-third of those known U.S. cases occurred in Ohio. There were four cases of swine flu in Franklin County last year.

State fair officials are doing their part as well, by encouraging exhibitors to follow a number of recommendations from the Ohio Department of Agriculture, including removing sick pigs from the exhibition area and asking exhibitors not to show a pig or herd mates for at least seven days after returning from an exhibition, said Alicia Shoults, spokeswoman for the state fair.

"We do sanitize all of our barns entirely prior to the shows," Shoults said.

"And between the swine breeding show and the market show, all of the animals leave and the facility is sanitized again," she said.

"In addition, we have numerous hand-sanitization and hand-washing stations and post signs encouraging fairgoers to wash hands."