TDA and TDH Provide Healthy Tips for Enjoying Summer Fairs
NASHVILLE – Thousands of Tennesseans will be enjoying the sights, sounds and foods of county fairs in the upcoming weeks. And while the Tennessee Department of Health, the Department of Agriculture and other agencies work behind the scenes to help safeguard the health of people and animals, parents and individuals need to take a few moments to prepare for another healthy trip to the fairgrounds.
Livestock exhibits are popular attractions and are an important part of agricultural youth programs and industry. Fairgoers are encouraged to visit these areas while also being mindful that, while the instances are rare, livestock can sometimes spread diseases such as E coli and H3N2 swine flu to humans, especially the elderly, young children, and those with compromised immune systems.
Last year, there were several cases in other states of swine flu infecting pigs and, in some cases, humans who came into contact with them at fairs around the country. To minimize risk, those prone to developing severe complications from influenza or in poor health should limit their exposure to swine.
“You can’t get swine flu from eating pork, but you can get it from touching or being very near to those rare pigs carrying the disease,” said Tim Jones, MD, state epidemiologist and director of the Tennessee Department of Health Communicable and Environmental Diseases and Emergency Preparedness division. “Distance is your best protection because this is primarily a respiratory health issue. If you do touch a pig, wash your hands with warm, soapy water or a hand sanitizer as quickly as possible. The symptoms for swine flu are the same for seasonal flu, so if you start having those flu-like aches and pains after contact with swine, check with your family physician.”
Fair goers visiting swine or any other livestock area should practice the following safety precautions.
• Wash hands frequently with warm, soapy water.
• Do not eat or drink in livestock areas.
• Do not bring pacifiers, sipping cups or strollers into the livestock area.
“We want the public to enjoy and support their local fair but to also observe good health practices while around livestock for their own protection and that of the animals,” State Veterinarian Charles Hatcher, DVM said. “Fair officials should be mindful that only healthy animals are displayed on the grounds.”
Any sick animals found at the fairgrounds should be sent home and reported to the state veterinarian’s office at 615- 837-5120.