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Ohio officials probe possible swine flu cases at state fair

CINCINNATI (AP) — Ohio health and agriculture officials said Wednesday they are investigating the cases of 10 sick people whose illnesses have similarities to a swine flu virus. All had attended the same county fair, and officials at the big Ohio State Fair were stepping up precautions.

State and Butler County health departments say preliminary laboratory tests indicate possible H3N2 variant flu virus, which can be contracted by humans from being around infected hogs. Officials say all 10 had contact with hogs at the Butler County Fair, which ended last weekend in Hamilton, in southwest Ohio.

The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention is also investigating, but hasn’t confirmed swine flu.

Ohio Health Department spokeswoman Tessie Pollock said all 10 people were recovering from their illness. She wouldn’t discuss any other details about them or their cases, citing health privacy concerns.

Swine flu symptoms include cough, sore throat, fever and body aches, and possibly nausea and diarrhea.

Indiana authorities last week said they were investigating similar cases involving four people who had swine contact at a northwest Indiana fair. Pollock said Ohio authorities have been in contact with Indiana officials, and also with Ohio State Fair officials.

“This is no reason not to attend the fair,” Pollock said.

The state fair — with nearly 1,500 hogs in its livestock shows — continues through Sunday in Columbus. Officials have rushed to add hand sanitizer stations around livestock barns and are reminding people to wash their hands after being near livestock and to keep food and drinks out of animal areas.

“We’re stressing to folks to take extra precautions,” Agriculture Department spokeswoman Erica Pitchford said. She said officials are also spreading the word to 4-H advisers and others to make sure youths who spend a lot of time in the fair barns with their animals to use precautions.

She said ill hogs exhibit the same symptoms as humans: coughing, sneezing and stomach problems.

Health officials urge exhibitors at all fairs to take precautions and for veterinarians to closely monitor swine for signs of illness.

There have been various strains of swine flu, including the H1N1 flu that caused a 2009 global pandemic. It can be most threatening to pregnant women, the elderly, young children and people with weakened immune systems.


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