WASHINGTON - A swine flu outbreak that broke out at the Charles County Fair has been contained, Maryland agriculture officials say. However, the virus has infected ten Maryland residents who came in close contact with pigs at the fair, according to the Maryland Department of Health.
On Tuesday, 107 pigs in the swine exhibition at the fair were quarantined after Influenza A was detected in five pigs. Initially, the health department reported on Wednesday that no one became seriously ill or had to be taken to the hospital due to the virus.
However, Sherrell Taylor said her 8-year-old daughter Kennedy, who spent last weekend petting pigs at a livestock exhibit at the Charles County Fair, has been hospitalized since Tuesday. The Waldorf mother said test results for her daughter confirmed she had swine flu.
“It's just horrible because when she went to the fair, we were so excited and we couldn't wait to go,” said Taylor. “So when we went, she was just running through the park really happy and then everything went downhill by Monday."
Taylor said Kennedy has a condition that makes it harder for her immune system to work. However, she has gone to the fair before to pet pigs, and has never gotten sick.
“You just never think that it is going to happen to you – what is happening to our daughter,” said father Chris Sutton. “It's also kind of disheartening. You expect to be able to take your daughter to these kinds of family functions and be safe, but then again you find out that you are not.”
In an email to FOX5, the fair board said they emphasize hand-washing and have signs posted throughout the exhibit. Kennedy's parents said she did wash her hands, but her recent experience is enough for the family to stay away from the pig stalls from now on.
“We thought that we were in the best place possible,” Taylor said. “It was really kid-friendly and this is an annual thing they do. You know, it's sad. It's scary. I wouldn't pet the animals. I will just look and keep going.”
Maryland health officials say symptoms for this flu strain are the same as seasonal flu, and include fever, sore throat and cough.
The Maryland Department of Agriculture said the animals were inspected before human contact. It was possible the pigs had the flu, but did not have symptoms until Sunday.
Agriculture officials say a final inspection will be conducted later this week to determine if the quarantine on the pigs at the Charles County Fairgrounds will be lifted.
“Upon further epidemiological investigation and ongoing trace backs to previous fairs and shows, the Maryland Department of Agriculture believes the swine influenza outbreak is contained,” said Maryland State Veterinarian Dr. Michael Radebaugh. “We have not seen any other evidence of swine influenza anywhere else in the state.”
“Within 18 hours of the quarantine order, 47 of the pigs were sent to market. The 60 remaining pigs now appear to be healthy, have a good appetite and are not showing any clinical signs of swine influenza,” the Maryland Department of Agriculture said in a news release.
All swine exhibitions will remain closed at the St. Mary’s and Calvert county fairs as a precaution until the order is lifted by the Secretary of Agriculture.