Officials warn of contact with swine at livestock shows

Bruce Schultz, Navarre, Christine B.  |  9/11/2012 12:21:50 AM

News Release Distributed 09/10/12

Health officials are advising people who show pigs that a new swine flu virus can be spread by direct contact with infected animals.

“We don’t have it in Louisiana, but that doesn’t mean we couldn’t,” said Dr. Christine Navarre, LSU AgCenter extension veterinarian.

Experts recommend that those in high-risk groups should avoid livestock shows where pigs are exhibited, Navarre said. One reason the virus has yet to show up in Louisiana may be because 4-H livestock shows haven’t started this year.

“It may never come here, but we just don’t know,” she said.

Those at high risk for the disease include pregnant women, children younger than 5 years old, anyone older than 65 and people with long-term health conditions such as asthma and other lung diseases, diabetes, heart disease, weakened immune systems and neurological or neurodevelopmental conditions.

According to the Centers for Disease Control, the virus designated as H3N2v is believed to spread from droplets from pigs when they sneeze or cough.

The CDC recommends that anyone, including exhibitors or their family members, at high risk of serious complications from a flu-like illness should avoid areas where swine are shown.

“This may mean that exhibitors with one or more high-risk factors do not show pigs this year,” the CDC said in an advisory.

Most people who developed an illness from the virus had mild cases, but many individuals in the high-risk category developed serious complications requiring hospitalization.

Recommendations for exhibitors not at high risk include:

– If you are responsible for the care of pigs, watch them for illness, like loss of appetite, cough or runny nose. Call a veterinarian if you suspect illness.

– Avoid close contact with pigs that look or act ill.

– Take protective measures if you must come in contact with pigs that are known or suspected to be sick. This includes wearing protective clothing and gloves and masks that cover your mouth and nose.

– To further reduce the risk of infection, minimize contact and avoid unnecessary close contact with pigs in the pig barn and arenas.

The CDC also advises the following preventive actions:

– Don’t eat or drink or put anything in your mouth in a pig barn or show arena.

– Don’t take toys, pacifiers, cups, bottles, strollers or similar items into a pig barn or show arena.

– Wash your hands often with soap and running water before and after exposure to pigs. If soap and water are not available, use an alcohol-based hand sanitizer.

– If you are sick with flu-like illness, stay home to avoid potentially spreading your illness to the pigs.

Bruce Schultz

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