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Friday January 28th

H1N1 could spread from person to pig at fair

Hand sanitizer and gloves are a must at this year’s N.C. State Fair because of the fear of H1N1. DTH/Phong Dinh
Buy Photos Hand sanitizer and gloves are a must at this year’s N.C. State Fair because of the fear of H1N1. DTH/Phong Dinh

After months of panic about swine flu, the tables have turned. The pigs at the N.C. State Fair now have to worry about catching their own virus.

The fair, which opens today, will be home to hundreds of pigs and fair officials are worried about not only the spread of the virus from human to human, but from human to pig and other livestock.

There will be more than 6,000 livestock at the fair.

“We are the nation’s No. 2 producer of swine, and we want to keep our swine population healthy,” said Brian Long, director of public affairs for the N.C. Department of Agriculture and Consumer Services.

Nationwide, there are not yet any reported cases of pigs contracting H1N1, although it has happened in other countries, said Karen Beck, an N.C. Department of Agriculture veterinarian.

Beck’s department is encouraging farmers bringing livestock to the fair to prevent the spread of H1N1 by vaccinating their livestock with flu shots, she said.

While the normal influenza shot will not necessarily protect against H1N1, it will at least keep pigs from getting the regular flu, she said.

All animals that come onto the fairgrounds will also be inspected by a veterinarian on site, Beck said. There will be a clinician on hand in case there are signs of illness.

The pigs will only stay at the fair from Thursday through Sunday this year, she said. The sow and piglets on display will also be surrounded by a special double barrier to further prevent them from being exposed to the virus.

Beck also recommended that people who have had swine flu not attend the fair unless they have been symptom free for seven days.

“You’ll see signs that we are putting up around our exhibits that say ‘Our animals are healthy, are you?’” Beck said.

Despite the H1N1 scare, Long said advance ticket sales are up from last year, so it seems like the illness has not been a deterrent.

The key to preventing the spread of the flu, according to both Long and Beck, is hand washing. Fairgoers are being asked to wash their hands before entering the livestock areas.

“We want to protect the people, but we want to protect the swine too,” Long said.

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