State Fairs, Farms Take Steps To Protect Pigs From Us

NPR-11 years before

Enlarge this image A pen containing a sow and her litter of 10 piglets attracts a lot of attention. Health officials are asking visitors to the Nebraska State Fair to wash their hands frequently and avoid contact like this if they've been sick.

Most of the concern about swine flu has focused on preventing humans fro... spreading it to others. But at state fairs across the country, animal health officials have been taking steps to protect pigs from getting the new H1N1 virus from people.

At the Nebraska State Fair, for example, there are signs around the pig pens with big red letters reading, "Help Keep Our Animals Healthy." The signs also ask that people wash their hands, and if they're feeling ill, not to pet or touch the pigs. There are also hand sanitizer dispensers around the barn.

Transmission from humans to hogs has been reported in Canada, Australia and Argentina. So far, there's no evidence that it's happened in the U.S.

The fear is that the virus could pass between humans and animals and mutate into something more dangerous, says Bob Ehart of the National Association of State Departments of Agriculture.

Many fairs around the country have been asking visitors to exercise extra caution around pigs. Some have put up barriers to keep people away. Ehart says it's not just state fairs that are being careful.

"Farms are paying more attention to delivery men coming to the farm, dropping off things and that kind of thing," he says.

If a herd in the U.S. turns up with the virus, farmers fear, the news would be another blow to the image of an industry that has been largely losing money for about two years.

But Dr. John Clifford, the U.S. Department of Agriculture's chief veterinarian, says the risk to animals may increase in the coming months.

"We would anticipate that if we see the emergence of this again this fall, which is being anticipated, that you're increasing the likelihood that we're going to find it in pigs," he says.

Clifford expects a new H1N1 vaccine for use in hogs to be ready in late fall or early winter. Until then, farmers are hoping no swine come down with swine flu.

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