The hundreds of head of hogs at the just-opened Iowa State Fair are being carefully monitored for signs of illness. Outbreaks of a new flu strain were reported at recent fairs in Ohio and Indiana. Iowa State Fair manager Gary Slater says they’re being vigilant at the big event in Des Moines for any indications of influenza.

“We’re watching for pigs that are showing any flu-like symptoms and if we see that, we’ll certainly put a thermometer in them and see if they’re running a fever,” Slater says. “If they are, have that nasal discharge and that barking cough that’s representative of this, they’ll be sent home immediately.”

Ten people got sick at the fair in Ohio. The new flu strain is called H-3-N-2, a disease in swine that’s slightly different from the H-1-N-1 strain that hit three years ago. Slater says H-3-N-2 can be passed from swine-to-humans but not from human-to-human. The H-1-N-1 strain could be passed human-to-human.

Slater says they’re being watchful at the fair, but he says he’s not particularly worried. “Really, I don’t have all that concern about this at this point,” he says. Slater says the state fair’s livestock entries are steady in number with past years and he’s expecting a very good showing with all the species.

“Market steers and market hogs are always the biggest numbers we have, and of course, market lambs in our youth divisions,” he says. “Of course, they’re all trying to have that coveted ‘sale of champions’ position for the champions, both in FFA and 4H.” Slater hopes to match or beat last year’s attendance of one-million-80-thousand fairgoers.

He says the most unique exhibit this year is an 11-foot stainless steel moose, covered with two-inches of Dutch chocolate in the Food Building. It contrasts from the cow covered in butter in the Ag Building. The Iowa State Fair opened today and runs through August 19.

By Jerry Oster, WNAX, Yankton