Health department offering precautions against swine flu

Photo: Montgomery County Planning Commission / CC BY-SA 2.0

LANSING, MI (WILX) - It's carnival and fair season in mid-Michigan.

And although they are a lot of fun with good food, carnival rides, and midway games, some people have become sick when visiting exhibits with swine (pigs,hogs).

The Michigan Department of Health and Human Services is offering suggestions for people to follow before heading to the animal exhibits.

What is swine flu? It's caused by a type A influenza virus, according to the MDHHS, that circulates among swine.

When it spreads from pigs to people it's called a variant influenza virus.

MDHHS says that in 2018, 17 people from 6 states were sickened by variant influenza after being at a swine exhibit at a fair. And three of those cases were in Michigan.

Officials believe that the flu spreads from animal to human through droplets when infected pigs cough or sneeze.

“All swine, even those that appear healthy, have the potential to carry influenza virus,” said Dr. Joneigh Khaldun, MDHHS chief medical executive and chief deputy director for health. “Washing your hands thoroughly before and after being around swine protects both you and your family from the risk of influenza virus, and also helps keep the swine healthy.”

Just like the flu virus, people with swine flu may have a fever, experience a sore throat, cough, runny nose, even body aches, vomiting or diarrhea.

"Those at higher risk of developing complications include children younger than five years of age, people 65 years of age and older, pregnant women and people with certain chronic health disease, such as asthma, diabetes, heart disease, weakened immune systems and neurological conditions."

Here's what you can do to stay safe around swine at the fair:

• Refrain from eating or drinking in livestock barns or show rings.
• Do not take toys, pacifiers, cups, baby bottles, strollers or similar items into pig areas.
• Anyone who is at high risk of serious flu complications and is planning to attend a fair should avoid pigs and swine barns.
• Avoid touching your eyes, nose and mouth. Germs spread this way.
• Avoid contact with pigs if you have flu-like symptoms.
• If you are sick, stay home from work or school until your illness is over.
• Avoid close contact with sick people.
• Cover your nose and mouth with a tissue when you cough or sneeze. Throw the tissue in the trash after you use it and wash your hands.
• Wash your hands often with soap and water. If soap and water are not available, use an alcohol-based hand sanitizer.

For more information on swine influenza, visit the CDC website.

For information about swine influenza in pigs, please contact the Michigan Department of Agriculture and Rural Development at 800-292-3939.

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