The Puyallup Fair is taking precautions this year so visitors can’t get too close to the pigs and potentially be exposed to a new variant of swine flu virus that has made people sick elsewhere.
The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention reminded people visiting fairs this summer to practice good hygiene, after it reported in early August that 12 people in Ohio, Indiana and Hawaii had been sickened that week by the H3N2v virus. So far this year, 306 people have been infected with the virus, including more than 100 each in Indiana and Ohio, the CDC reported. Since July, 16 people were hospitalized, and one person died.
The latest instances were reported Thursday, when Minnesota health officials said that two children got sick with the H3N2v virus after visiting pigs at the Minnesota State Fair on Sept. 2. A pig tested positive for the virus that same day.
One was a grade-school age girl, and the other was a preschool-aged boy. The boy’s family has pigs at home, so it’s possible he was exposed there. Both children have recovered.
Previously, a different strain of swine flu called H1N2 was linked to four illnesses in Minnesota State Fair visitors this year, Minnesota Public Radio reported.
No human cases have been reported in Washington state.
But the Puyallup Fair, which runs through Sept. 23, has safeguards in place.
“We have double fencing up so people can’t get too close to the pigs in the Pig Palace to touch them,” said Puyallup Fair spokeswoman Karen LaFlamme. “The only other pigs are 4-H pigs, here for a few days. We also have double fencing there.”
LaFlamme said the fair is “using a special solution to clean down the barn areas in both sites, which kills the virus. There was enough timing so that we could be ready to keep our guests far enough away to prevent a problem.”
There aren’t any piglets in the Fair Farm for kids to pet this year, LaFlamme added.