Friday, July 5, 2013

Going to the fair? Exercise good judgment

Maine’s fair season kicks off in July, with 24 licensed agricultural fairs throughout the state.  Fairs offer visitors a unique opportunity to enjoy agricultural events, exhibits, food, amusement rides, and other attractions.  Fairs also may increase the risk of certain diseases, to both humans and animals.

Influenza A H3N2v is associated with pig exposure, most commonly during fairs. Twelve cases were confirmed in 2011 from five states, including two in Maine. Last year, that number increased to more than 300 cases in twelve states. Indiana has already reported 4 cases associated with a fair last month.

Other diseases that may increase during fair season include Shiga toxin-producing E. coli infections (STEC), Salmonellosis, Cryptosporidiosis, and Campylobacteriosis.  The risk of these diseases can be reduced through good hand hygiene.

Recommendations for fair goers:
  • Do not attend a fair if you are ill. You are risking infecting not only the people around you, but also the animals. Many animals are susceptible to human illnesses, including the flu.
  • Always ask the owner for permission before you touch an animal. Before and after touching animals, wash your hands with soap and water or use alcohol hand gel. This will help reduce the risk of spreading illness from you to the animal and from the animal to you.
  •  Before eating, wash your hands with soap and water or use alcohol hand gel. This will help reduce the risk of gastrointestinal illness, such as Salmonella.
It is important that we do everything we can to make fairs as safe an experience as possible, both for the people and the animals, and following these simple rules will help assure good health for everyone involved.

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