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A ‘fair’ precaution

Published: Monday, Aug. 5, 2013 3:45 p.m. CDT • Updated: Monday, Aug. 5, 2013 3:50 p.m. CDT

PRINCETON — With the Bureau County Fair less than three weeks away, the Bureau/Putnam County Health Department is working with the local fair board to help make sure everyone stays safe when visiting livestock barns at the event.

The Illinois Department of Public Health (IDPH) confirmed a case of the H3N2v influenza virus has now been reported in Illinois, as well as in Indiana and Ohio. The confirmed Illinois case was a Boone County child with mild symptoms who had contact with swine while helping an exhibitor in late July at the DuPage County Fair.

On Monday, Bureau/Putnam County Health Department Administrator Diana Rawlings said the health department is working with the local fair officials to post signs on the hog barns and handwashing signs in areas where people are interacting with animals.

“As we have done in previous years, we will work with the fair officials and recommend common sense precautions, such as not going into the hog barns if you have trouble with your immune system; not eating, drinking, smoking or giving a baby a bottle or pacifier in the animal barns; and washing hands or using hand sanitizer after interacting with animals,” Rawlings said.

The health department will also recommend the placement of hand sanitizers outside of any animal barn. Of course, it is also a good idea for individuals to carry their own hand sanitizers with them, Rawlings said.

The local health department is definitely not suggesting anyone stay away from the Bureau County Fair, Rawlings said.

“We are not encouraging people to stay away but just to take precautions,” Rawlings said. “We are a rural community and going to the fair is a wonderful part of summer here. Common sense precautions, such as these, are always a good idea and really do help keep you well.”

According to IDPH Director LaMar Hasbrouck, the H3N2v is a variant form of influenza A, which was first detected in swine in 2011. The first human cases were reported in 2012, including four cases in Illinois. The Centers for Disease Control is currently reporting more than a dozen cases this year in the United States. All infections in 2013 have occurred in people following contact with swine, and cases of the virus being transmitted from person to person are rare, Hasbrouck said.

So far this year, the severity of illnesses associated with the H3N2v virus in people has been similar to the severity of illnesses associated with seasonal flu virus infections, Hasbrouck said.

“The H3N2v virus is relatively new, but the Illinois Department of Public Health, the Illinois Department of Agriculture and our federal partners are monitoring this situation closely,” Hasbrouck said. “We want you to enjoy your time at the state or county fair, so one key thing to do to stay healthy is to wash your hands frequently, especially if you are around swine.”

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