Seeing animals up close is an integral part of experiencing state and county fairs. With good hygiene, fair visitors shouldn't worry about contracting diseases from animals, according to Kansas State University veterinary experts.

"Be very attentive to good hygiene and wash your hands after contact with animals," said Gary Anderson, director of Kansas State's Veterinary Diagnostic Laboratory. "We encourage people to visit animal exhibits at fairs as long as they take appropriate precautions."

A case of H3N2 influenza was reported in Riley County after a child apparently had direct contact with pigs at a county fair. The Kansas Department of Health and Environment reported that the child completely recovered.

The Kansas State experts say people shouldn't worry excessively about contracting H3N2 from pigs and stress that hygiene and proper hand washing are a good defense. In addition, this virus does not appear to be particularly virulent for humans.

Not all influenza viruses are like the pandemic H1N1, which has the ability to easily spread from human to human. The Kansas State researchers said that although H3N2 can pass from pigs to humans, it has not been shown to pass from humans to humans easily. However, there is the potential that it could pass from people back to pigs. This is one reason why workers in swine operations wear masks and other personal protective equipment when working with the animals.

"This H3N2 is a virus that doesn't appear to be particularly virulent for humans," Anderson said. “The virus didn't manage to survive and be passed on." Also, the researchers said it should be emphasized that pork is safe to eat, even when influenza viruses have been involved.

The H3N2 virus is different from the novel pandemic H1N1 virus that does spread among people. According to the literature, the majority of swine viruses that transfer to humans are H1N1 types, said Juergen Richt, Regents Distinguished Professor at Kansas State. However, Richt said that the H3N2 virus introduced to North American pigs in the mid-1990s was a human-swine double reassortant virus.

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Source: Kansas State University