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Taking precautions to prevent swine flu at the Berrien County Youth Fair

August 13, 2012|By Denise Bohn | WSBT-TV Reporter

It's opening day for the Berrien County Youth Fair, and fair officials are taking extra precautions because of growing concerns over swine flu.

WSBT was the first to report an outbreak at the LaPorte County Fair last month, where 41 pigs and several children got sick.

So far statewide there have been 129 confirmed cases of swine flu in Indiana -- the highest in the nation.

Cases have also been reported in Ohio and Kentucky.

So States all around the Midwest are now urging fair goers to be careful.

Berrien County officials are using extra precautions to make sure the pigs and pig lovers don't get sick.

Jody Ganum and her boys, from Lakeshore, are enjoying opening day at the fair, located in Berrien Springs.

"They love the pigs!  We've been by the pigs for a long time," says Ganum

"I don't like that they are stinky, but I like to pet them, says Ganum's son, 7-year-old Ethan. They feel scratchy."

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But fair goers, like Ethan, who want to get up close with the barn animals are being asked to be very careful around the pigs this year.

Signs are up all around the swine barn asking people to "not touch the pigs" and to "not eat in the barn."

According to the Centers for Disease Control, there have been 162 cases of swine flu reported this summer...up dramatically from only 13 cases last season.

There are 308 pigs on exhibit at the fair.  All of them underwent a "health check" yesterday and were okay.  But if any of the animals show any signs of getting sick the barn superintendent must be notified immediately then one of three veterinarians on-call at the fair are contacted to come and do an examination, says Karen Klug, a long time fair board member.

"We have a spot set up for a quarantine area should we need it, but that's something we do every year," added Klug.

On Sunday, the fair also had a Swine Specialist from Michigan State University Extension Office talk with all the pig handlers on how to try to keep everyone healthy this week.

Chelsea Paturalski, 20, of Niles has been showing pigs at the fair since she was nine years old.

She has four entered this year. Paturalski says she and the other exhibitors are working hard to keep the barn extra clean this year, "just because cases have broken out, we've been extra careful."

Fair officials have installed additional fans in the barn to keep the animals cool if needed and they've added more hand washing stations outside.

"It's something I wouldn't have thought about, but I will definitely head straight for the hand sanitizer after this," says Ganum as she notices the "do not touch the pigs" sign hanging up at the barn's exit.

Fair officials are also hopeful the cooler temperatures predicted for this week will help to prevent a swine flu outbreak.  Last month, over 41 pigs and several children at the LaPorte County Fair got sick after coming down with the swine flu. Temperatures were in the mid-90's at the time and health officials say that helped to fuel the outbreak.

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