If you and your family are considering heading to a petting zoo or agricultural fair before the summer’s over, the Centers for Disease Control (CDC) would ask that you keep your hands away from the pigs. Apparently, those curly-tailed cuties may be harboring a new strain of swine flu.
Since last summer, H3N2 has sickened over two dozen people. In the last month, 16 confirmed cases have been reported. Which may not seem like a lot, but it is a significant uptick in this new strain of the potentially lethal disease. And it’s really easy to prevent, assuming you don’t, say, live on a pig farm. All of the cases that have been confirmed so far have been in contact with pigs, which means, as of now, no person-to-person transmissions have been recorded.
But then, H1n1, the strain of swine flu which lead to 2009′s deadly pandemic, started relatively small, too. In fact, this new strain features a gene which may indicate that it may be more easily spread among people.
To keep yourself (and your loved ones) safe, the CDC advises that anyone who comes in contact with a pig–particularly at a fair or petting zoo–wash their hands frequently, avoid eating or drinking anywhere nearby, and avoid contact with pigs who “look or act ill.” Though I’m not entirely sure how you can tell when a pig has the flu.
Children, pregnant women, the elderly, and those with compromised immune systems are especially vulnerable to swine flu, and should use extra caution.
If you do develop flu-like symptoms (aches, chills, runny nose, fever, etc.) after exposure to a pig, you are urged to seek medical attention. Not only could it save your life, it could also help stop the spread, or at least provide new information to the CDC.
Eating properly cooked and handled pork is not considered to be a risk.
For more information about swine flu, pigs, and petting zoos, check out the CDC’s bulletin on the subject.