EDIT: Swine flu has been detected in pigs at a second County Fair.
Seven people have contracted swine flu after coming into contact with pigs at the Charles County Fair last week.Every year in the late summer and early fall, Maryland counties stage their annual fairs. The events serve as an opportunity for the entire community to come together and celebrate what makes their county great. Many of those county fairs feature local livestock, with some even holding competitions for the biggest goats or pigs. At least one of those pigs at the Charles County Fair this month ended up infecting seven fairgoers with swine flu. Also known as Influenza A, swine flu is difficult, but not impossible to transmit to humans. Agricultural fairs are actually one of the main ways that humans can become infected with swine flu. This is especially true when children are allowed to pet animals on display. Fair organizers are trying to estimate how many people may have come into contact with the diseased pigs, but warn it would be difficult to arrive at a definitive estimate. Seven people who attended the Charles County Fair have so far tested positive for swine flu. None, however, have developed serious illnesses that would require hospitalization. All pigs that took part in the fair in La Plata, Maryland have been quarantined as a safety measure. Veterinarians will run tests to determine which pig or pigs started the outbreak and in the abundance of caution, Maryland Secretary of Agriculture Joseph Bartenfelder issued a order banning swine exhibits from being held at two upcoming county fairs.
The St. Mary's County Fair opening September 21, 2017 to September 24, 2017 and the Calvert County Fair opening September 27, 2017 to October 1, 2017 shall be closed for all swine exhibitions and any other activities involving swine, including but not limited to pig races."
Since the mid-2000s, there have only been 400 recorded cases of human contraction of swine flu. In 2009, the discovery of a new strain of the H1N1 influenza virus brought the disease back into the lexicon. The H1N1 virus was also responsible for the 1918 flu pandemic, an outbreak which claimed tens of millions of lives worldwide. While there have been scattered outbreaks since then, none have been nearly as threatening as the "Spanish Flu" was in the early 20th Century. Maryland health and agricultural officials are confident that the outbreak does not pose any significant risk to the population. None of the infected fairgoers have become seriously ill and all are expected to make full recoveries. There is no reason to believe future fairs would pose a risk, but health officials are being extra careful and banning swine exhibits in these two upcoming county fairs. Symptoms of swine flu mimic those of the regular influenza virus, namely a fever, sore throat, and cough. If you attended the Charles County Fair within the past seven days, came into contact with swine, and have developed flu-like symptoms, it is important that you contact your local health provider. More information on this swine flu outbreak can be obtained by contacting the Charles County Health Department at 301-609-6900 (extension 6025). If you are a farmer and need to report a sick pig, the Maryland State Agricultural Department's phone number is 410-841-5810.