Tuesday, August 7th, 2012
BEREA, Ohio — For the first time, the Cuyahoga County Fair opened its barn doors on Monday without the customary snorts of swine.
The County Fair Board temporarily barred pigs and hogs from the week-long event after two pot-bellied animals infected with swine influenza were discovered last week at the Ohio State Fair.
Fifteen Ohioans have been infected with the recent H3N2v strain of swine flu this summer, the most of eight states that have confirmed cases, according to the Ohio Department of Health. One of the Ohio cases is the result of contact with swine at the state fair, the health department said.
The other 14 are the result of direct contact with swine at the Butler County Fair. Eleven similar cases have been reported in Indiana.
The reports of H3N2v infection are no cause for panic, according to the Centers for Disease Control. But they are cause for caution.
“The swine flu is not any more severe than seasonal flu,” said Michael Jhung, a medical officer with the CDC’s Influenza Division. “There have been no deaths and very few hospitalizations.”
Still, the Cuyahoga County Fair Board decided to be proactive and eliminate any risk.
“We do regret the decision, but we definitely think it is in the best interest,” said Tim Fowler, president of the board. “There are other animals here. There is still plenty to see at the county fair.”
Ohio officials are reaching out across the state to prevent transmission of the virus during county fair season.
Visitors are encouraged to wash hands frequently and avoid eating near livestock, said Ohio Department of Health spokeswoman Tess Pollock.
“There is nothing to be panicked about,” Pollock said. “There is no reason to avoid the fairs.
“Our cases have been fairly mild. Most people are recovering on their own or with the help of anti-virals.”
There are three types of influenza found in swine: H3N2, H1N1 and H1N2. When the respiratory viruses are transmitted to people, they are called “variants” and labeled with a “V.”
People infected with H3N2v or other swine flu variants often have symptoms in common with seasonal influenza, including: fever, sore throat and vomiting.
The CDC estimates between 3,000 and 49,000 people in the U.S. die each year from seasonal influenza. The range in estimates is so wide because common flu deaths are not often reported to the CDC.
Tens of millions of Americans contract the seasonal flu each year and less than 50 have contracted H3N2v since August, 2011, the CDC said.
“We think this is a very rare occurrence to get these variant influenzas, but we want to be completely transparent and get the information out,” Jhung said.
That transparency has led to a saturation of media coverage. But the center does not intend to stir fear.
The goal is to keep lines of communication open between the CDC and the public, Jhung said, adding that the more information the center collects, the better it can combat any severe threat.
Currently, the viruses aren’t easily transmitted from person to person. Only a small number of the nation’s swine flu cases have been transmitted between people, Jhung said, adding that “if it becomes easily transmissible, the danger is that many people in the U.S. will be susceptible.”