DARKE COUNTY — Weeks ago, two children contracted “Swine Flu” — or more specifically, H3N2v, a variant of the swine flu virus — at the Clark County Fair.
Though both youngsters readily recovered, the incident raises concerns about the chances of people contracting infectious diseases from animals as they attend the Great Darke County Fair in Greenville, set to begin today.
Darke County Health Department Commissioner Dr. Terry Holman says that while the chances of humans contracting Swine Flu do exist, if proper sanitary precautions are taken, the likelihood is much reduced.
“It’s been an issue for several years,” he said. “It’s nothing new. We have had some in the animals, but no human cases in the past few years.”
“Nonetheless, we need to be wary when we go around livestock and barns, not just for Swine Flu but for other diseases too,” he explained.
Dr. Holman said the Darke County Health Department has taken a number of measures to help prevent animal-to-human disease transmission.
“We’ve posted signs, warning people about the dangers,” he said. “We also recommend not consuming food or drinks in the livestock barns, and for people to wash their hands and use hand sanitizer stations located outside the barns.”
Holman says he wears two hats, both as head of the county’s Health Department, and also as an animal vet. As such, he says he is a frequent presence at the fair throughout the event.
“I walk the barns daily,” he said. “If I need to, I will pull out an animal and isolate it.”
He also explained, as an added precaution, officials from the Ohio Department of Health also perform random samplings of animals at county fairs throughout the summer.
Agriculture Educator Sam Custer of the Darke County OSU Extension Office, echoed Dr. Holman’s recommendations.
“I would say the risk is low, but everyone should practice good hygiene when working with all animals. Wash hands after handling animals, especially before eating,” he said.
Those with questions or concerns may contact the Darke County Health Department by phone at 937-548-4196, ext. 209.