Federal officials say 10 people in the state of Ohio who got the flu likely got it from being around sick pigs at a county fair. On Friday, officials with the Centers for Disease Control held a news conference and recommended that people who go to a fair avoid taking food and drinks into livestock barns.
Dr. Dave Schmitt, Iowa’s state veterinarian, says all the livestock entered in contests at next week’s Iowa State Fair are thoroughly examined, to ensure sick animals are kept out.
“Actually, it starts on the farm with the exhibitor’s private veterinarian filling out a certificate of veterinary inspection, and then when they come to the Iowa State Fair our field staff are present as far as checking those papers in,” Schmitt says. “And then there’s also a veterinarian that is present at the fair.”
A veterinarian is available in the barns, 24 hours a day, to examine any animal that shows signs of illness. In 2009, Iowa State Fair officials established an area where animals that fall ill after they get to the fair can be quarantined. Dr. Schmitt says there’s “no advantage” in bringing a sick animal to the State Fair.
“Here it’s a competition. It’s high-quality animals and it’s a high-quality show,” he says. “People are very conscientious and take the proper precautions to make sure their animals are healthy when they come in.”
CDC officials on Friday reminded Americans that it’s always best to wash your hands after being around livestock. Schmitt says that message is being spread on the fairgrounds, too.
“They have signage up, in English and Spanish, reminding people to wash their hands,” Schmitt says. “They also have hand sanitizing stations in each of the animal species barns.”
All but two county fairs in Iowa have been held already and there have been no reports of the flu in Iowa that have been linked in any way with a pig. The State Fair starts next Thursday in Des Moines. The Guthrie County Fair will be held over the Labor Day weekend and the Clay County Fair starts September 8.
(A previous version of this story incorrectly identified the state veterinarian as Dr. John Schiltz. Schiltz has been replaced by Dr. Schmitt.)