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Editorial: Take precautions, ensure enjoyable fair experience

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A stroll through the animal barns is a traditional activity at the Johnson County 4-H Fair. But visitors need to exercise a bit of caution to keep an enjoyable summertime experience from turning sour.

Purdue Extension is warning people who attend 4-H fairs to remember safe practices for their health and for the health of the animals.

College of Health and Human Sciences Extension program leader Angie Abbott says animals have bacteria and germs that can make people sick. She says fairgoers can minimize the risk of becoming sick taking some common-sense precautions.

The federal Centers for Disease Control and Prevention advises against taking food or drinks into animal areas. It also advises against taking toys, pacifiers, cups, baby bottles or strollers into livestock barns. It also warns that people who have been sick, women who are pregnant and people with chronic health issues should avoid livestock.

The number of human cases of swine flu has risen to 12 in Indiana, prompting state health officials to remind people to take precautions.

The Indiana State Department of Health recently reported that at least 10 cases of variant influenza A, or swine flu, were tied to the Grant and Hancock county fairs. One person developed the flu after having contact with swine at their farm. The department said that four people had contracted the flu at the Grant County fair.

Last year, Indiana saw 138 cases of swine flu.

“There’s no reason why Hoosiers shouldn’t enjoy our county and 4-H fairs this summer,” State Health Commissioner William VanNess said in a news release. “But now that we know swine influenza is circulating, it’s going to be important to take some extra precautions around the animals.”

State health officials suggest these steps to avoid infection:

  • Wash hands with soap and water before and after petting or touching any animal.
  • Never eat, drink or put anything in your mouth when visiting animal areas and avoid face-to-face contact with animals.
  • People at high risk for flu complications should avoid close contact with swine in the fair setting particularly.
  • People with swine flu develop symptoms one to four days after exposure. Symptoms can last two to seven days, though antiviral influenza drugs can help.

Thus far, 29 pigs from the Grant and Hancock county fairs have tested positive for influenza. Often, pigs can have the flu and show no symptoms.

Swine flu has never been a major issue at the Johnson County 4-H Fair. But that’s no reason not to take simple precautions. They will protect not only visitors to the fair but the animals they are there to see.

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