The Ross County Health District is stepping up awareness and education ahead of the Ross County Fair
Following the news of an outbreak of a novel swine flu virus in persons attending the Butler County Fair, the Ross County Health District is stepping up its education and awareness efforts ahead of the Ross County Fair.
"People need to know that diseases can be spread from animals to humans and that handwashing is critical if you’re handling not only a pig or a hog, but any animal really," said Dr. Timothy Angel, Ross County’s Health Commissioner.
The health district has been in contact with the Ross County Fair Board, as well as leaders of the area 4H program.
Angel said they’re reminding the fair board that sick animals should not be allowed into the fair, and any that become sick during the fair should be removed. That will help limit any spread of disease to humans as well as to the other animals. The health district is hoping 4H leaders can help spread the word about the importance of handwashing to their members and to the parents of their younger participants.
"In Butler County almost all of the people reporting flu-like illness were exhibitors, so we really want to get the word out to them," Angel added. "As for other people attending the fair there’s little or no danger, as long as they’re careful and wash their hands if they touch an animal or a potentially contaminated surface near the animals."
He said the health district is also recommending that people don’t eat or drink when they are near the animals.
Swine can be infected by both human and avian strains of influenza. A hog or a pig that is infected simultaneously with both can lead to new combinations of the virus. While many avian influenza strains cannot be transmitted directly to humans, these new swine variations are at times passed to humans and can prove very dangerous, since humans have no natural resistance to many of the avian strains.
Kathy Wakefield, director of public health nursing at the health district, said state health authorities believe the influenza strain to be H3N2v - the "v" representing a variant swine virus passed to humans. Flu symptoms in swine, she said, are similar to those in humans.
"Infected swine often are feverish, may have a barking cough or be sneezing, have discharge from the nose or eyes, and be off their feed. Because the virus is most often picked up by the hands, it’s important that we keep our unwashed hands away from our eyes, nose, and mouth. Those are the most common places a virus can enter our body."
Wakefield said hands should be washed often, using soap and water. A vigorous scrubbing is best, both on the fronts and backs of the hands, as well as between the fingers and even under the fingernails.
"It’s also important to rinse the hands well and to dry them on something clean. Not a dirty towel or the jeans or tee-shirt you might be wearing," she said.
An alcohol-based hand sanitizer will also work, but according to studies it should contain at least 60 percent alcohol.
Anyone experiencing flu-like symptoms - high fever, body aches, extreme fatigue, or a dry hacking cough - should see a physician.
Wakefield said the district had also contacted Adena Regional Medical Center to alert them and to establish communications in the event that people begin to show up at the hospital or at area physician’s offices complaining of an influenza-like illness.
For more information visit the health district’s website, www.rosscountyhealth.com, or Facebook users can "Like" the Ross County Health District page where any updates or alerts will be posted.