There were 11 people sick with flu-like illness who have an association of visiting the hog barn last week at the Clinton County Fair, the Clinton County health commissioner said Wednesday morning.
Last Thursday, State of Ohio officials shut down the hog barn at the Clinton County Fairgrounds after swine flu was detected. Following that, only the exhibitors and a limited number of others were allowed to see the remainder of the Junior Fair Market Swine Show.
Of the 11 people with flu-like symptoms, three have been lab-confirmed as having the H3N2 flu virus, stated Clinton County Health Commissioner Pamela Walker Bauer.
“However, we do not yet know if these three lab-confirmed cases are a match to the H3N2 swine virus found in the hogs,” Walker Bauer reported.
“Swine flu, like any flu virus, can be spread, although rare, from pigs to people,” the Clinton County Health Department said in a news release. “Spread of swine flu viruses from pigs to people is thought to happen the same way that human flu viruses are spread; mainly through droplets when infected pigs cough or sneeze.”
Highland County Junior Fair Coordinator Jana Holbrook said she and other local fair organizers are aware of the virus, and will be on the lookout this year for hogs showing signs of illness.
“More or less, it’s just something we’ll have to watch at the fair,” she said. “We’re going to be on alert looking for the sickness. As of now, everything is going to go on the same, just like normal.”
Holbrook said more wash stations will be set up by the hog barn and the main show area as a precaution.
“We’ve had the last four years wash stations by the hog barn and main show area,” she said. “We’re just going to get more there, just for the public and people who are in the barn… The wash stations are for everyone to use. Anywhere you go, there’s sanitizer near animals. If you touch an animal, you’re going to want to wash your hands anyway.”
Holbrook debated the verbage associated with H3N2, saying the virus is not swine flu, but rather a strain of flu that can affect hogs.
“First off, it’s not the swine flu,” Holbrook told The Times-Gazette. “It’s called H3N2. We want that kind of clarified… The swine flu was more of an outbreak, more like the avian flu. This is just a strand of a sickness the hogs are getting. That’s all from my understanding.”
Holbrook said people shouldn’t be too worried about humans contracting the illness.
“It’s not like it’s something where, ‘Oh, a hog has H3N2, a human is going to get it,’” she said. “There’s a possibility of humans getting it, but that doesn’t mean it’s going to happen.”
Highland County Health Commissioner Jared Warner said the Highland County Health Department has been working with Clinton County officials to “keep an eye on things.”
“The message we’ve been sharing is the same one that the Clinton County Health Department has been sharing,” Warner said. “The big thing to know is understanding the symptoms. It’s really the same as seasonal influenza. Fever, lack of energy, lack of appetite, coughing, runny nose… If you have those symptoms and you’re worried about swine flu or seasonal flu and those symptoms, contact your health care provider as you normally would… Regardless of where the flu came from, the same steps should be taken to protect yourself and protect other people… In this case, we’re trying to avoid pig barns.”
Holbrook said the Highland County Fair will continue no matter what.
“The fair is going to go on,” Holbrook said. “As of right now, everything is going to go on as normal. We are going to take some precautions and watch the hogs for sickness, but we’re going to try to keep things as normal as possible.”
The 2017 Highland County Fair will be held Sept. 2-9.
Reach David Wright at 937-402-2570, or on Twitter @DavidWrighter.