Iowa County fair vet: Wash up to stop swine flu

14 cases of the virus are confirmed in Wisconsin
Iowa County fair vet: Wash up to stop swine flu

The latest strain of swine flu, H3N2v, has hit the state.

Wisconsin health officials have linked the virus with hog barns at fairs, but some suggest there are easy ways to avoid coming down with the disease, even if you come in contact with pigs.

The number of people infected with the illness across Wisconsin has reached 14. One child was even hospitalized, and all of those cases are connected to proximity with pigs.

Those raised on hog farms said the pigs are more than moneymakers.

“They get up when you walk in. They know who you are. They know their calls, they know their names and everything else. It’s just like a dog almost,” Jacob Yelink, who showed his pigs at the Iowa County Fair, said.

“You have to have a passion for it, and I think that’s what we all share in this barn,” said Megan Thomas, who also showed her prize porkers.

The group of young hog farmers hanging out in the barn never thought their pseudo-pets might be seen as anything dangerous.

“I have never encountered anything like that growing up on a farm my entire life, so it’s hard to believe. It is,” Thomas said.

After 14 confirmed cases of swine flu in the Badger State were linked to hog barns at various fairs, state health officials advised young children, the elderly, pregnant women and anyone with a weakened immune system to stay away from the animals.

Doctor Amy Robinson volunteers as the veterinarian for all the Iowa County Fair animals. She said every pig in that barn had to have an exam before going on display. Robinson checks the hogs for red eyes, runny nose and fever – similar symptoms to what any physician might look for in a human patient.

For Robinson, the prescription is as simple as keeping things clean.

“Hand-washing is tremendously important,” Robinson explained. “If we wash our hands, and if we’re diligent about recognizing disease early, cases are going to be very limited.”

The fair even set up soap and water stations outside of the barn, encouraging people to wash up.

The fair board has actually seen attendance increase from last year, despite the news about the latest swine flu outbreak.

Iowa County Fair board secretary Tyler Kennicker said, “Some of the fair-goers may not visit the barns, but actually when we walked through there too, everybody’s been down there.”

Robinson added, “If we take the necessary precautions, everyone should be able to come out and enjoy the fair, look at the animals and go home safely.”

Robinson said people don’t experience as severe of symptoms with this strain of the virus as with past swine flu outbreaks. There have been no reports of anyone contracting the virus in Iowa County.