Swine flu outbreaks at Maryland county fairs being investigated by veterinarians

Officials with the Maryland Department of Agriculture are investigating the source of swine flu outbreaks that canceled pig exhibits at multiple county fairs.

The investigation was sparked after the parents of a young girl from Waldorf, Maryland said she had to be hospitalized after contracting swine flu from pigs at the Charles County Fair. The following day, the Great Frederick Fair was shut down early when almost a dozen pigs there also tested positive for swine flu.

The pigs from the Great Frederick Fair are being kept cool as they're quarantined until Saturday.

"If something came from another area, it could've been brought into the fair from many sources. So that's why we are taking precautionary measures," explained Nancy Keller with the Great Frederick Fair Board of Directors.

Currently, health officials are trying to determine if the strain of swine flu found at the Great Frederick Fair can be passed to people like the H2N3 strain of swine flu found at the Charles County Fair. Several people who had direct contact with the pigs in Charles County became infected.

"This virus is always kind of circling through our pig population," Maryland State Veterinarian Dr. Michael Radebaugh stated. "And with the recent hot weather and anytime you bring a lot of pigs together in a certain area it's very easy for that to be transmitted because it's an aerosol transmission."

Radebaugh said only people who had very close interaction with the infected pigs could be at risk of developing symptoms, which doctors say are similar to the regular flu and can easily be treated with antiviral medicine. They also said human contraction is very rare.

"2012 was the last case that we've had like this so we feel lucky about it. We do a lot of education outreach and education and always promote biosecurity, biosecurity, biosecurity and handwashing," Radebaugh explained. "Handwashing is so important. Just like with us, human influenza, to prevent it from being passed."

Officials said they've seen no evidence that the strains at the fairs can be passed from person-to-person, but out of an abundance of caution, the pig exhibits at the remaining St. Mary's and Calvert County fairs have been canceled.