CADILLAC — Although Michigan State Fair has had its share of ups and downs over the past several years, there are plenty of local fairs to fill the time during the summer.
Depending on the fair, that could mean copious amounts of fried food, rides, exhibits and of course all things agriculture. For many, however, the draw of the fair is the farm animals that are shown and eventually auctioned off.
While animals are a huge part of the fairs, especially in the local fairs of the Cadillac area, there are some things people should do when visiting the barns to ensure they stay safe and more importantly healthy.
With various fairs still on the horizon in the Cadillac area, District Health Department No. 10 is reminding fairgoers to take simple precautions to remain safe around the fair and its animals.
No. 1, don't eat or drink in the livestock barns or show rings. Likewise, don't take toys, pacifiers, cups, baby bottles, strollers or similar items into swine barns.
No. 2, if a person is at high risk of serious flu complications and is planning to attend a fair, avoid pigs and the swine barn. Similarly, if you have flu-like symptoms avoid contact with pigs.
No. 3, avoid touching your eyes, nose and mouth as germs spread this way.
No.4, avoid contact with sick people and if you're sick stay home from work until the illness is over.
Finally, common things like covering your nose and mouth with a tissue when you sneeze or cough and throwing the tissue in the trash after it is used. Good handwashing also is advisable and when soap and water is not available use alcohol-based hand sanitizer.
Persons who become ill with influenza-like symptoms such as fever, sore throat, cough, runny nose, body aches, vomiting or diarrhea after exposure to animals, especially pigs, should check with their doctor and ask about being tested for influenza, according to the health department. In severe cases, pneumonia, and even rarer cases, death may occur.
High-risk persons such as children younger than 5, people 65 years of age and older, pregnant women and people with certain chronic diseases such as asthma, diabetes, heart disease, weakened immune systems, and neurological conditions should contact their doctor as soon as possible, the health department said. Also, contact your local health department to report the illness as well.
The Michigan Department of Health and Human Services also is asking people to use common sense when attending fairs. MDHHS health experts also want to educate the public about swine influenza in particular.
Swine influenza is a respiratory disease in pigs caused by type A influenza viruses that regularly circulate among swine. Swine influenza viruses do not usually infect humans, but human infections have been reported.
When influenza viruses spread from pigs to people it is called a variant influenza virus. In 2018, 17 people from six states, including three from Michigan, were sickened by variant influenza viruses after having direct or indirect contact with swine at fairs and exhibits, according to the MDHHS. Since 2010, there have been 466 confirmed cases reported nationally. These infections and related hospitalizations have mostly been among children; however, all age groups have been affected, the MDHHS said.
Spread of the virus from a pig to a person is thought to happen in the same way that human flu viruses spread — mainly through droplets when infected pigs cough and sneeze. In a few cases, a person infected by a pig has then spread the virus to another person. People cannot get swine influenza from eating properly prepared pork or handling pork products, according to the MDHHS.
Currently, there is no human vaccine for swine influenza and the seasonal flu vaccine will not protect against it; however, antiviral drugs, such as Oseltamivir and Zanamivir, are effective in treating it, according to the MDHHS. Early treatment works best and may be especially important for people with a high-risk condition.
For more information on swine influenza, visit the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention website, www.cdc.gov.