Marion County officials monitoring Jackson County swine flu cases

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Aug. 5—FAIRMONT — Marion County health and agriculture officials are taking extra precaution this week in preparation for the Mannington District Fair, which begins setup on Sunday.

Both the Marion County Health Department and WVU Extension are concerned after learning of "multiple reports from the Jackson County Fair of swine exhibiting respiratory symptoms and fever."

According to the West Virginia Department of Agriculture, the tests that were performed on the swine "returned presumptive positive results for influenza virus and samples have been forwarded to the U.S. Department of Agriculture's National Veterinary Services Laboratory in Ames, Iowa, for confirmation."

"When I saw the announcement, it kind of broke my heart for the kids because Jackson County has a very large swine show, so I feel for them," WVU Extension Agent for 4-H Youth Development Tina Cowger said.

Mannington District Fair Board Publicity Chair Eva Yoho said the livestock barn at the farm is limited to horses, cows and bunnies and that the only swine on display are in the 4-H & FFA Barn.

Cowger said about three Marion County families are preparing to show their pigs in the Mannington District Fair, which kicks off Aug. 8 with its annual fair parade.

Cowger said, that hopefully, since a majority of Americans have been taking extra health and sanitary precautions throughout the COVID-19 pandemic that any possible harm would be minimized.

Meanwhile, in making its announcement Aug. 3, the WVDA stated that the Jackson County Health Department and the West Virginia Department of Health and Human Resources have conducted testing on humans after learning of "several reports of individuals who have developed influenza-like illness who worked closely with these animals.

"DHHR's Office of Laboratory Services returned presumptive positive influenza A H3N2v on at least one human specimen on Tuesday, August 2," states a WVDA press release.

DHHR is waiting to hear back about the human test results from the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.

According to DHHR, "swine influenza viruses may circulate in pig populations throughout the year and do not usually infect humans. Although influenza viruses can spread between pigs and humans in rare situations, this usually occurs after having contact with a pig in a public setting or by directly working with infected pigs. The same influenza antiviral drugs used to treat seasonal influenza can also be used for treatment of swine flu infection in humans."

WVDA Communications Director Crescent Gallagher said the state agency has already been in touch with multiple agencies, including the West Virginia Association of Fairs and Festivals since many counties are getting ready to open their county fairs. The West Virginia State Fair runs Aug. 11-20.

"We're urging folks that they don't need to shut down their shows, but to take extra precautions," Gallagher said. "We asking them to limit the number of people who interact with the animals to only those who provide care for the animals. Only those who care for the animals should be interacting with the swine."

Cowger said WVU Extension will have portable handwashing stations available at the Mannington District Fair.

"An inspector from the West Virginia Department of Agriculture comes out to the Mannington District Fair and inspects every animal before they are allowed in the barns for any type of illness or disease. I'm 99.9% they do that for all fairs and festivals with livestock," Cowger said. "We'll also ask families to not bring in any food or drink into the barns as well."

Marion County Health Department Director Lloyd White said he would reach out to the Mannington District Fair Board in light of the Jackson County announcement.

"The Fair Board is really, very good and they work hard to prevent any type of illness whether it's waterborne or airborne," White said. "We have the same goals — they want to have a successful event and we certainly want them to as well."

White said he will suggest fair officials implement extra health and safety precautions in light of the Agriculture Department's announcement.

When visiting animal exhibits, guests are encouraged to take routine precautions, such as washing hands with soap and water before and after exposure to animals, to not take personal items, food or drinks into swine barns or areas with animals, and to avoid close contact with animals that are ill or appear ill. First and foremost, avoid contact with pigs that may be experiencing influenza-like symptoms.

Reach Eric Cravey at 304-367-2523.