23 Oct 2012

Avoid the Flu at the Zoo or Fall Fair (Florida Health Dept., October 22 2012, edited)

[Source: Florida Department of Health, full page: (LINK). Edited.]

Avoid the Flu at the Zoo or Fall Fair

By editor01 on October 22, 2012

 

As fall fair season in Florida approaches, visitors should enjoy the many sights and sounds of these annual fun fests around the state, yet be mindful of potential health risks and how to minimize them.

With so many visitors, fairs, festivals, and other fun spots can play host to germs.  Hands may touch tickets or tacos, animals or attractions, which can also mean the sharing of a number of germs.  Wash hands frequently or, if traditional handwashing sources are not available, use an alcohol-based hand sanitizer to minimize your risks.

Some fall fairs may also include petting zoos or attractions featuring swine animals.  While there have been no cases in Florida, this year, other states have reported human infection with Influenza A (H3N2)v, a viral infection that normally circulates in swine, but can sometimes infect humans through close contact with infected pigs.

The spread of H3N2v from infected pigs to humans is thought to happen in the same way that seasonal influenza viruses spread between people- through infected droplets created when an infected pig coughs or sneezes. If these droplets land in the nose or mouth, or are inhaled, a person can be infected. There is also evidence that humans might be infected by touching something that has virus on it and then touching the mouth or nose. A third possible way to infection is to inhale dust containing influenza virus.

Symptoms of H3N2v infection, include sudden onset of fever, chills, headache, muscle aches, runny nose, sore throat and nonproductive cough. Children younger than five may also have vomiting and diarrhea.

If you or someone you know becomes sick with flu-like symptoms after exposure to pigs, the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) recommends the following actions:

  • Contact your health care provider to let them know your symptoms and that you have been in contact with swine.
  • Avoid or limit contact with household members and others while you are sick and avoid travel.
  • Practice good respiratory and hand hygiene, including covering your mouth and nose when coughing or sneezing. Always wash your hands after coughing or sneezing. This is to lower the risk of spreading any flu virus you have to others.
  • Avoid or limit contact with pigs as much as possible. Stay away from pigs for seven days after symptoms begin or until you have been fever-free for 24 hours without the use of fever reducing medications, whichever is longer. This is to protect your pig(s) from getting sick.

The CDC also recommends the following precautionary measures to prevent the spread of flu viruses between people and pigs:

  • Wash your hands frequently with soap and running water before and after exposure to animals.
  • Never eat, drink or put things in your mouth in animal areas.
  • Young children, pregnant women, people 65 and older, and others who are at increased risk for severe complications from influenza should be extra careful and avoid close contact with swine at fairs when possible.
  • If you have animals – including swine – watch them for signs of illness and call a veterinarian if you suspect they might be sick.
  • Avoid close contact with animals that look or act ill, when possible.
  • Avoid contact with pigs if you are experiencing flu-like symptoms.

Additionally, if you must come in contact with pigs while you are sick, or come in contact with pigs known or suspected to be infected, or their environment, you should use appropriate protective measures (e.g. wear protective clothing, gloves, masks, etc.), and practice good respiratory and hand hygiene.

For more information about H3N2v, click on the following Centers for Disease Control and Prevention links:

For general flu prevention tips, please visit the Florida Department of Health’s website.

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