Take precautions if you visit pigs at county fairs

Sunday - 7/28/2013, 3:16pm EDT

WASHINGTON - As the county fair season begins in Virginia and Maryland this week, Virginia's health department has issued a warning about exposure to a pig flu called influenza A H3N2v.

Influenza A H3N2v can be passed to humans who have contact with a sick pig.

In 2012, 12 people in Indiana became ill from that flu after being exposed to pigs. Some of them attended county fairs.

Prince William County Health Director Dr. Alison Ansher says the symptoms are often mild, but children, senior citizens and those with compromised immune systems can get very ill.

Also at an increased risk are pregnant women and people with chronic medical conditions, including asthma, diabetes and heart disease.

As people head to the animal barns at the fairs, Ansher's advice to avoid the sickness is simple.

"Wash your hands well after you have had contact with the animals, including pigs," she said.

She also advises people to not eat or bring food anywhere near the animal pens.

Local fairs will post more warnings this year reminding visitors to wash their hands. Ansher says in Prince William County, animals will be screened to make sure they are not sick. And. more handwashing stations will be located near the animal pens.

Parents should keep toys, spill-free cups and anything else kids might put in their mouths away from the pens, she said.

Virginia's health department issued several precautions for those who work or visit local county fairs.

They include the following:

  • Wash hands before and after visiting pigs. Use an alcohol-based hand rub if soap and water are not available.

  • People with flu-like symptoms should not visit the pigs.

  • Avoid pigs that seem sick.

The first of the area's county fairs kicks off Monday in Loudoun County.

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