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Flu cases linked to pigs at the Mid-State Fair, SLO County health officials confirm

Rowdy samples the rails of the gate at the auction ring at the Junior Livestock Auction at the California Mid-State Fair.
Rowdy samples the rails of the gate at the auction ring at the Junior Livestock Auction at the California Mid-State Fair. dmiddlecamp@thetribunenews.com

San Luis Obispo County health officials confirmed Thursday two cases of influenza A have been diagnosed in patients that had extended contact with pigs at the California Mid-State Fair.

Influenza A is a virus that spreads among pigs and can occasionally be transmitted to people who have close contact with the animals, according to statement from the county health department.

Officials said both patients experienced brief illnesses and have since recovered.

When humans are infected by the virus — known as variant influenza virus infections — the effects are usually mild, with symptoms similar to those of seasonal influenza, the health department said.

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“In recent years, variant influenza virus infections have occurred each summer in the United States, and most infections have been linked to exposure to pigs at agricultural events,” officials said.

When the virus is transmitted from a pig to a person, it generally does not spread widely to other people. It also cannot be transmitted by eating pork, the county said.

The Mid-State Fair ended July 29, and the health department said it does not expect to see any new cases, adding, “the risk to the general public is very low.”

Animals and livestock were auctioned off at the Junior Livestock Auction at the California Mid-State Fair on Saturday, July 29, 2017. Auctioneer Randy Baxley of Visalia makes the call.

Officials warned that anyone who had extended contact with pigs at the Mid-State Fair to be alert for symptoms of the flu.

Symptoms include fever, cough, sore throat, muscle or body aches, headaches and fatigue and may also include vomiting and diarrhea, according to the county. Symptoms typically appear within one to four days of exposure and last for two to seven days.

“Flu of any sort can be dangerous and even healthy people can sometimes experience serious complications,” according to the health department. “If you experience difficulty breathing, shortness of breath, chest pain, severe abdominal pain, confusion, sudden dizziness, or severe vomiting that won’t stop, seek medical attention immediately.”

Michael Bradley, CEO of the California Mid-State Fair, said in a news release Thursday that it launched a “review of all health protocols and procedures related to swine and other species” after learning that one of the 562 pigs exhibited at the fair was confirmed to have influenza A.

“We are cooperating in every way possible with the County Department of Public Health keeping in mind that our first priority is for the safety of the tens of thousands of people who come to the fair every year,” Bradley said. “We want to be sure we’re doing all that we can to keep fair-goers safe. We have protocols already and will expand them as necessary.”

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