Key Facts for People Exhibiting Pigs at Fairs

Background

Pigs may be infected with swine influenza (flu) viruses which are different from human flu viruses. Swine flu viruses spread among pigs, and they can spread from pigs to people, too, although this happens rarely. When it does happen, these viruses are called variant flu viruses and are designated with the letter “v” after the virus subtype. Human infections with H1N1v, H3N2v and H1N2v viruses have been detected in the United States for many years.

Spread of swine flu viruses from a pig to a person is thought to happen in the same way that human flu viruses spread; mainly through droplets with influenza virus in them that spread through the air when infected pigs cough or sneeze. More information about how variant flu virus infections happen is available at Variant Influenza Viruses: Background and CDC Risk Assessment and Reporting | CDC. Variant flu virus infections have happened in different settings, especially at agricultural fairs, where pigs from many places come in close contact with each other and with people.

Exposure to pigs, especially close contact with pigs, is the main risk factor for infection with variant influenza viruses. While most illness with these viruses has been mild, serious illness, including illness resulting in hospitalization, has happened. To protect those most likely to get infected and develop serious illness, CDC recommends exhibitors (and their friends and family members) take the following actions to help prevent the spread of flu between pigs and people.

Who is at higher risk of serious flu complications?

  • People who are at higher risk of developing serious complications from flu, including variant flu viruses, include children younger than 5 years, people 65 years and older, pregnant people, and people with certain long-term health conditions (like asthma and other lung disease, diabetes, heart disease, weakened immune systems, and neurological or neurodevelopmental conditions).

Fair Exhibitors at Higher Risk of Serious Flu Complications

  • Anyone at higher risk of serious flu complications planning to attend a fair where pigs will be present should avoid pigs and swine barns at the fair.
  • This includes pig exhibitors and family members with factors that put them at higher risk of serious flu complications.
  • If fair exhibitors at higher risk of serious flu complications cannot avoid exposure to pigs, they should wear a well-fitting mask that covers the nose and mouth to reduce the risk of exposure to flu viruses from pigs.
  • They should also wash their hands with soap and running water before and after exposure to pigs or a swine barn. If soap and water are not available, use an alcohol-based hand rub.
  • Take protective measures if you must come in contact with pigs that are known or suspected to be sick. This includes wearing protective clothing and gloves and masks that cover your mouth and nose. (This is called “personal protective equipment” or PPE).

Fair Exhibitors Not at Higher Risk of Serious Flu Complications

  • If you are responsible for the care of pigs, watch them for illness (like loss of appetite, cough or runny nose). Call a veterinarian if you suspect illness.
  • Avoid close contact with pigs that look or act ill and notify the fair veterinarian and/or the fair manager if you think that your pig may be ill.
  • Wash your hands with soap and running water before and after exposure to pigs or a swine barn. If soap and water are not available, use an alcohol-based hand rub.
  • Take protective measures if you must come in contact with pigs that are known or suspected to be sick. This includes wearing protective clothing and gloves and masks that cover your mouth and nose. (This is called “personal protective equipment” or PPE).

As always, take the following preventive actions

  • Don’t eat or drink or put anything in your mouth in the pig barn and show arena.
  • Don’t take toys, pacifiers, cups, bottles, strollers, or similar items into the pig barn and show arenas.
  • Wash your hands often with soap and running water before and after exposure to pigs. If soap and water are not available, use an alcohol-based hand rub.
  • If you are sick with flu-like illness, stay home to avoid spreading your illness.
  • While attending agricultural fairs or exhibitions where pigs are present, keep the pigs at the fair or exhibition for 72 hours or less to help prevent or interrupt the spread of flu among pigs and between pigs and people.

What to do if you get sick

  • Flu symptoms usually include fever, cough, sore throat, runny or stuffy nose, muscle or body aches, headaches, fatigue, and sometimes vomiting or diarrhea.
  • If you are at higher risk of serious flu complications and you get flu symptoms, call a health care provider. Tell them about your risk factor and your symptoms. If you have had recent exposure to pigs, tell them about that, too.
  • If you are not at higher risk of serious flu complications and you get flu symptoms after exposure to pigs, seek medical care as you normally would but tell your provider about your exposure to pigs.
  • A health care provider can decide whether influenza testing or antiviral treatment is needed.
  • Influenza antiviral drugs can treat variant flu virus infections as well as seasonal flu illness in people and are recommended for treatment of flu symptoms, including due to variant flu virus infections in persons at increased risk of serious flu complications.
  • These antiviral drugs work better the sooner you start them after your symptoms begin, so seek medical treatment promptly if you get symptoms and are at higher risk for serious flu complications.

Prevent the Spread of Flu Between Pigs and People

In general, at agricultural fairs or exhibitions where pigs are present, keeping the pigs at the fair or exhibition for 72 hours or less can help prevent or interrupt the spread of flu among pigs and between pigs and people.

For More Information

Telephone: 1-800-CDC-INFO (232-4636)/TTY: 1-888-232-63548

Contact: Contact CDC-INFO
Web: Information on Influenza A (H3N2) Variant Viruses (“H3N2v”)

U.S. DEPARTMENT OF HEALTH AND HUMAN SERVICES
Centers for Disease Control and Prevention

U.S. DEPARTMENT OF AGRICULTURE
National Institute of Food and Agriculture/4-H National Headquarters

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