Courtesy titanium22The Minnesota State Fair starts next week and as you prepare to go, you just might want to assess your flu risk in the swine barn.
Researchers at the University of Minnesota have just announced the results of a study they conducted at the 2009 fair, testing pigs for the H1N1 flu virus that was spreading widely across the nation at that time.
Their findings showed that 19 percent of the pigs they tested at the fair that year had the virus. Some appeared to be perfectly healthy, exhibiting no flu symptoms. Two pig exhibitors from that year's fair from the same family came down with the flu from pigs they were showing, researchers added.
Adding some urgency to the announcement of the study is a new nationwide outbreak of a different strain of swine flu this year: H3N2v. More than 150 people across the country have come down with symptoms of this new flu.
So does this mean you should stay away from the pig barn? Not entirely, fair officials say. Veterinarians will be conducting extensive testing of all pigs coming to the fair this year. And the fair has issued this guidelines to help people decide how much time, if any, they should spend with the pigs.
• Avoid eating in the barns
• Use hand-washing stations after visiting
• Skip the barn if you feel ill
People who are at high risk for flu should also consider avoiding the swine exhibit entirely – including children younger than 5, pregnant women, people 65 and older and those with chronic conditions.
You may now resume eating your pork chop on a stick, but first share with Science Buzz readers your thoughts about visiting the pig barn at this year's fair.