Good hygiene is important for exhibitors and the public when working with swine exhibits
Disease can spread quickly when pigs from different areas are comingled at events like county fairs and jackpot shows.
The County Fair season in Michigan is well underway and many fairs have wrapped up their 2013 events. There are still some youth involved in swine exhibition at the local level and it is important that they understand how to protect the health of their animals, safeguard their personal health, look after the public that attend exhibitions and protect the fair from the consequences of disease. Disease can spread quickly when pigs from different areas are comingled at events like county fairs and jackpot shows. If illness is a result of the comingling of pigs, people can also be at risk for infection. Michigan State University Extension recommends making the proper precautions will increase the likelihood that your pigs will be unaffected or less affected when they come into contact with a disease like swine influenza and can help protect exhibitors and the public from different illnesses.
Swine influenza (SIV) is a respiratory disease caused by type A influenza virus. This zoonotic disease is contagious among pigs and according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, some strains have been reported to infect the human population, specifically in 2009 and most recently with a mild outbreak in the summer of 2012. Influenza can be characterized in swine by clinical signs such as coughing, fever, sneezing and lethargic acting animals. Swine can also be asymptomatic, which means that you may not notice that your pig is sick. This disease typically runs its course in approximately 3 to 7 days and has no effect on the meat quality or safety of the meat produced.
As with any zoonotic disease there is a concern that people may become sick from exposure to pigs that are carrying virus and may be contagious. Taking simple precautions such as washing your hands and being vigilant when you observe your animals can help protect the health of pigs and people. The influenza virus is transmitted via oral and nasal mucosa, because of this, eliminating food and drink consumption by humans around animals is a known method to reduce the transfer of this virus. When you see others eating or drinking in the exhibition area, be an advocate of your industry and politely ask them to remove food from the area, as this will help keep the pigs and people from getting sick.
Daily observation of changes in health status of the swine on exhibition is also important. Working with the fair veterinarian if an animal becomes sick and taking the appropriate steps to isolate or remove that animal from exhibit can help decrease the spread of disease in the swine area and stop exposure to people. If you become sick and have signs of respiratory illness it is important to notify your doctor that you have had close proximity to swine so that the correct diagnoses can be made.
Safeguarding your health and the public is an important role for swine exhibitors, as they are ambassadors of the agriculture industry and should lead by example when working with animals.