POMEROY — As the Meigs County Fair begins and animals fill the barns, the importance of frequent hand washing or the use of hand sanitizers as a step toward not picking up the swine flu is being stressed by the Meigs County Health Department.
Meanwhile, the Meigs CountyFair Board has increased the number of hand-washing stations from the two or three at previous fairs to five this year. They are located outside the animal barns and are open for use to not only exhibitors but the general public.
Since the outbreak of swine flu in Butler and Gallia counties, which occurred following county fairs, prevention is being stressed in Meigs County, and steps are being taken to prevent further spread of the virus at the Meigs County Fair which officially opens tonight.
Four cases of the swine flu were confirmed in Gallia County following the fair. All four individuals had direct contact with swine at the fair, according to the latest report from Gerald E. Vallee, MD, Gallia County Health Commissioner. That report also noted that 200 suspected cases have been reported, 69 of which tested positive for Influenza A (not the swine flu), and samples from others are being sent for further testing.
“When it comes to numbers, of both suspected and confirmed cases, the situation is very fluid,” said the health commissioner, adding that “symptoms have usually been mild and have not lasted long.”
He emphasized that it is safe to attend county fairs.
Sherry Wilcox, R.N. advises that the Meigs County Health Department has had 12 reported cases where swine flu is suspected, but none have been confirmed.
Since swine flu is initially contracted through animal to human contact, she stressed that frequent hand-washing with soap and water is the best deterrent to picking up any virus which an animal might be carrying.
Wilcox described the symptoms of swine flu as being very similar as for Influenza A. She stressed that transmission of the swine flu is animal to person and that’s why frequent hand washing is so important for anyone coming in contact with pigs, and why food should not be taken into the animal barns where it might get contaminated.
“Just follow precautions such as washing your hands after being around animals and not eating or drinking around animals or in the barns, and you’ll probably be just fine,” said Wilcox.
In answer to questions being asked by the public, Wilcox says cooked pork is perfectly safe to eat, and “no” the regular flu shot will not prevent swine flu.