With state and county fairs underway, the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention is warning people to take precautions when attending such agricultural events. Three cases of swine influenza, A(H3N2) virus, have been reported in humans this year, including two recent cases among people who attended a fair in West Virginia, the agency said Friday.
Although all of the sick individuals have been under the age of 18, “people who are at higher risk for developing serious flu complications should avoid pigs and swine barns at fairs.” the CDC recommended. Among high-risk groups are those aged 65 or more years as well as those with chronic health conditions such as asthma, heart disease, diabetes and chronic kidney disease.
Fortunately, none of the three ill people needed to be hospitalized, and all have recovered from their illnesses, the agency said. But if your community’s activities calendar includes a trip to the fair, here’s what else can you do to minimize residents’ and employees’ chances of becoming sick.
If you can’t avoid exposure to pigs, then wear a well-fitting mask that covers your nose and mouth to reduce your risk of exposure to flu viruses, and consider wearing protective clothing and gloves, the CDC said. Also, wash your hands with soap and running water before and after exposure to pigs or a swine barn. If soap and water are not available, then use an alcohol-based hand rub.
Additionally, don’t eat or drink while in pig areas, and avoid contact with pigs that appear to be sick.
If you develop swine flu symptoms, contact a healthcare provider. “Human seasonal flu vaccines will not protect against flu viruses that commonly spread in pigs, but prescription flu antiviral drugs can treat infections with these viruses in people,” the CDC said.
Lois A. Bowers is the editor of McKnight’s Senior Living. Read her other columns here.
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