Outbreak Of Pig Flu Virus In Indiana Has State Fair Taking Precautions
During its 12 day run, the Ohio State Fair is the biggest show in town, expected to attract more than 850,000 visitors.
As the general manager gets ready to welcome visitors, he hopes another visitor stays away -- the flu that can pass from pigs to people.
An outbreak in Indiana already has sickened 13 people.
With a loud clatter, one worker dumped an armload of metal poles on the ground on Tuesday.
His co-worker, Darrell Tate, said that there's a lot of work that goes into preparing for the opening of the 160th Ohio State Fair.
"We just move our tent that we're setting up here. We just move it on down about 100 yards," he said.
While his crew sets up tents, others erected fences around rides, transplanted flowers from three greenhouses on the grounds and mowed grass.
Posts stand ready for new signs to tell fairgoers where they are, and where other attractions are located.
Some men worked 15 feet high in a cage next to a familiar wooden figure, Smokey the Bear. Smokey's 20-pound hat rested on a picnic table nearby.
"It takes a lot of people to assemble this bear. This bear's pretty old," Jason Fallon said, as he gazed around the garden-like area run by the Natural Resources Department.
But in a few weeks, the people will be on the grounds and more than 20,000 animals will be on site.
And that's a concern for general manager Virgil Strickler.
He says this year, they'll be prepared for the H3N2 variant of flu that can pass from pigs to people. Last year, 107 Ohioans got sick, and one died.
"We have a lot of hand washing stations. We make sure that we have a lot of signage that explains everything to everyone that comes in and visits the swine department," Strickler said.
That also means no food and drink inside.
At the Columbus Public Health Department, Medical Director Dr. Mysheika Williams Roberts said that elderly people, babies, pregnant women and people with chronic health conditions should avoid entering the swine barn this year.
She said that fairgoers should be aware that nasal secretions from pigs can carry the virus.
She also warned visitors not to carry personal items – like strollers -- into the barn, because the virus could be spread unknowingly.
"That means sippy cups. That means pacifiers. That means camera cases. All of those things could be contaminated by the respiratory droplets of the animals while they're in the barn," she said. "Those respiratory droplets can get on your food, or your beverage, or the straw, and then you put that in your mouth, and then you have been exposed to the virus."
Strickler hoped that fairgoers will avoid the virus, have fun, and try the newest addition to fair food.
"This year we have bacon with I think it's maple ice cream, if you can believe that," he said.
People cannot get pig flu from eating pork.
The Ohio State Fair opens July 24.
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