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Published: Tuesday, 9/4/2012

Fulton County Fair officials cautious of new swine flu


WAUSEON -- Fulton County Fair officials are taking extra precautions this week to educate people about a new swine flu strain that was a factor in the death of at least one person.

Fair spokesman Amy Ambrose said officials put up extra signage this year reminding people to wash their hands after handling or petting a pig.

This particular flu strain, Ms. Ambrose said, is not airborne and is contracted through contact.

"What we have done for the fair -- and we do this anyways -- we remind people don't bring food or drinks into the barn; when you go in and out and are petting the pigs, we have wash stations. … it's basic hygiene. Wash your hands," Ms. Ambrose said.

Dr. Tony Forshey, the state veterinarian with the Ohio Department of Agriculture, was at the fair on Saturday before the hog show to address media, attendees, and participants about concerns over the new strain.

Ms. Ambrose said Dr. Forshey reported that the strain of swine flu -- H3N2v -- is not as "intense" as a seasonal flu.

Ms. Ambrose also said there is a veterinarian at the fairgrounds 24 hours a day. She said all animals are checked when they come to the fair to make sure they're healthy.

There are 240 pigs at the fair this year.

Concern over the virus has not impacted attendance, Ms. Ambrose said. On Friday, 25,663 people attended the fair; 59,985 on Saturday; and 56,349 on Sunday.

The fair runs through Thursday.

According to the Ohio Department of Health, at least one person has died as a result of the virus after coming into contact with a pig at the Ross County Fair.

Officials said the 61-year-old Madison County woman had underlying medical issues, but that the virus may have contributed to her death.

As of Friday, 102 cases of H3N2v were reported to state officials, with the greatest number of instances in Butler County, with 17, and Champaign County, with 15.

Contact Taylor Dungjen at: tdungjen@theblade.com, 419-724-6054, or on Twitter @tdungjen_Blade.

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