The North Dakota Department of Agriculture (NDDA) and North Dakota Department of Health (NDDoH) received results from the National Veterinary Services Laboratory confirming that three pigs exhibited at the state fair in Minot have tested positive for an influenza A H3N2 virus strain. Although influenza can be passed from swine to people, there is no evidence at this time that any people have become ill as a result of exposure to these pigs.
NDDA animal health division staff inspects all animals displayed at the North Dakota State Fair. The pigs appeared healthy when they arrived at the fair and became ill thereafter. After being tested, they were removed from the fairgrounds by their owners at the recommendation of veterinarians. This is the first time that an influenza virus has been confirmed in swine at a fair in North Dakota.
“Fairs and exhibits are an excellent way to showcase livestock and expose the public to animal agriculture production,” said Agriculture Commissioner Doug Goehring. “When appropriate precautions are taken, there is minimal risk of spreading disease to the public.”
However, some influenza viruses can spread from pigs to people and from people to pigs. Spread from infected pigs to humans is thought to happen in the same way that seasonal influenza viruses spread between people; mainly through infected respiratory droplets created when an infected pig coughs. Swine influenza has not been shown to be transmissible to people through eating properly handled and prepared pork or other products derived from pigs.
According to the NDDoH, appropriate precautions to prevent the spread of influenza from pigs to people include the same types of measures used to prevent the spread of influenza between people; frequent hand washing and avoiding contact with those that are ill. Other precautions include not eating or drinking around animals and avoiding contact with material, such as bedding material, which has been in contact with pigs. Any exhibitor or visitor at high risk of serious flu complications, who is planning to attend a fair where pigs will be present, should consider avoiding pigs and swine barns. The NDDoH also encourages those who work with pigs to take precautions to avoid the spread of illness. Use masks and gloves when you work with ill animals to protect yourself against transfer of the virus.
“Washing hands prior to working with or handling animals and likewise after working with animals is a good practice,” State Veterinarian, Dr. Susan Keller said. “Swine producers should contact their veterinarians if they have any questions about influenza-like illnesses in their pigs. Vaccines are available that may prevent illness.”