WEST LAFAYETTE, Ind. — Thousands of visitors will flock to
4-H fairs during July in more than 80 Indiana counties. But those who want to
pick up their favorite fair food and head to the livestock barns should remember
safe practices for their health — and for the health of animals.
Animals have bacteria and germs that can make people sick.
Fairgoers can minimize the risk by limiting contact with animals and visits to
barns and also practicing good personal hygiene, said Angie Abbott, program
leader for the College of Health and Human Sciences Extension and assistant
director of Purdue Extension.
“One of the easiest — and most important — precautions we
can all take to avoid spreading germs at county fairs is to wash our hands often
and with soap,” Abbott said.
The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention advises the
following when attending fairs:
* Locate hand-washing stations and wash your hands with soap and running
water often, including after going on a ride, before eating and drinking, after
removing soiled clothes and especially after petting an animal or touching any
part of an animal’s pen;
* Don’t take food or drinks into animal areas;
* Don’t take toys, pacifiers, cups, baby bottles or strollers into livestock
barns. Bacteria and viruses can be transferred from animals to people on these
* People who have been sick, who have a high risk of complications from the
flu, who are pregnant or who have chronic health issues, should avoid contact
with livestock, particularly swine.
Pigs can be infected with influenza strains that occur in
different species, said Stephen Hooser, professor of veterinary medicine and
director of the Indiana Animal Disease and Diagnostic Laboratory, based at
Purdue. They can get the flu from other pigs, humans and birds.
A new variant strain of influenza A, H3N2v, was confirmed in
Indiana and several other states last summer.
This swine flu virus may pass between people and swine
easier than other strains. In addition to people getting it from pigs, people
infected with it can pass the virus along to pigs.
Last summer, the virus was confirmed in people and pigs at
fairs during the same time period in Indiana and other states.
Grant County Health Department officials confirmed that four
people who visited the recent Grant County fair in Marion contracted H3N2v. Two
of them had contact with swine.
More information on H3N2v is available on the Extension
Disaster Education Network website at
The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention also offers
more information at www.cdc.gov/flu/swineflu/h3n2v-fairs-factsheet.htm.