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Staying Healthy at Ohio Fairs 

Ohio’s fair season is underway across the state and leaders at the Ohio Departments of Agriculture and Health are reminding Ohioans to practice good hygiene when visiting livestock exhibits this summer.


“Ohio’s fairs are great places to enjoy some summer fun, but visitors should remember some illnesses can be directly transmitted between animals and humans,” said ODH Director Lance Himes. “Simple steps like good hand-washing can help stop the spread of any illness and make sure your fair visit is a safe one.”


Visitors should always wash their hands with soap and water before and after petting or touching any animal. Never eat, drink or put anything in your mouth in animal areas. Parents and caregivers are encouraged to leave strollers outside the animal exhibits and carry small children. Older adults, pregnant women, young children and people with weakened immune systems should consider avoiding animal areas.

What is the Origin of The Flu Virus?

Type A influenza viruses, including H3N2 and the variants, commonly infect swine, causing outbreaks among swine herds. Most of the type A influenza viruses that infect swine are genetically very different from human (seasonal) influenza viruses, including currently circulating seasonal H3N2 viruses. While these variant influenza viruses seldom infect humans, such infections can and do occur. In fact, influenza viruses can spread both from swine to humans and from humans to swine.


How Are Variant Influenza Viruses Spread?

When a human is infected with a flu virus that normally circulates in swine, this virus is called a “variant virus” because it is different from seasonal influenza viruses. These infections have been most likely to occur when people are in direct contact infected swine, such as in swine barns and livestock exhibits housing swine at fairs. Human-to-human transmission of variant flu viruses also has occurred, though this method of spread has been limited. This kind of transmission is thought to occur in the same way that seasonal flu transmits in people, which is mainly through coughing or sneezing by people who are infected. People also may become infected by touching something with flu viruses on it and then touching their mouth or nose. It’s important to note that in most cases, variant flu viruses have not shown the ability to spread easily and sustainably from person-to-person.


Take Action to Prevent the Spread of Flu Viruses Between People and Swine

  • Wash your hands frequently with soap and running water before and after exposure to animals.
  • Never eat, drink or put things in your mouth in animal areas, and don’t take food or drink into animal areas.
  • Young children, pregnant women, people 65 and older and people with weakened immune systems should be extra careful around animals.
  • If you have animals – including swine – watch them for signs of illness and call a veterinarian if you suspect they might be sick.
  • Avoid close contact with animals that look or act ill, when possible.
  • Avoid contact with swine if you are experiencing flu-like symptoms.

If you must come in contact with swine while you are sick, or if you must come in contact with swine known or suspected to be infected, or their environment, you should use appropriate protective measures (for example, wear protective clothing, gloves, masks that cover your mouth and nose, and other personal protective equipment) and practice good respiratory and hand hygiene.


Is It Safe To Eat Pork?

Yes. H3N2 variant has not been shown to be transmissible to people through eating pork (pig meat like bacon) or other products derived from swine.


What Symptoms Do People Have When They are Infected With Variant Viruses?

People who have been infected with variant viruses have had symptoms similar to the symptoms of regular human seasonal influenza. These include fever, lethargy, lack of appetite and coughing. Some people also have reported runny nose, sore throat, eye irritation, nausea, vomiting and diarrhea.


If You Get Sick

  • If you live in an area where H3N2v or other variant virus infections have been identified recently and develop flu-like illness, contact your health care provider (a doctor, physician’s assistant, nurse practitioner, etc.). Tell them if you have had contact with swine or with other sick people.

  • If you live in an area where no H3N2v has been detected, follow CDC’s regular recommendations for seeking treatment for influenza. (If seeking treatment is recommended and you have had contact with swine, tell your health care provider about it.)

  • Also, whenever you have flu symptoms and are seeing a health care provider, always remember to tell them if you have asthma, diabetes, heart disease, neurological and neurodevelopmental conditions, are pregnant, or are older than 65 or younger than 5 years. These conditions and age factors (and others) put you at high risk of serious complications if you get the flu. Most of the people who have been infected with H3N2v so far have been children.

  • Flu symptoms usually include fever and respiratory symptoms, such as cough and runny nose, and possibly other symptoms, such as body aches, nausea, or vomiting or diarrhea.

  • Health care providers will determine whether influenza testing and possible treatment are needed.


Page Updated: 7/25/2017