Protecting pigs, people and the public

As county fairs ramp up in Michigan, fairs and exhibitors need to be proactive in reducing the spread of disease.

Photo credit: Maddie Curley, MSU
Photo credit: Maddie Curley, MSU

For many Michigan residents, summertime is synonymous with the county fair, a great time for area youth and their families to showcase the hard work they have put into raising their animals. However, combining animals from different farms can lead to a risk of virus and disease spreading between animals. Fairs need to be aware that disease or viral outbreaks can and sometimes do happen at their events and be prepared.

Risks to animals and humans are magnified when the virus is zoonotic and can be transferred between animals and people. In particular, the swine influenza virus has certain strains that can be zoonotic and, at times, can be found at exhibitions. It is important that people responsible for the pigs housed at the fair monitor for sick pigs at fair check-in, taking the proper biosecurity steps to reduce the spread of disease, providing proper signage for fair visitors about proper hygiene and talking to exhibitors and parents about preventing influenza.

Michigan State University Extension and the Michigan Department of Agriculture and Rural Development have partnered to create resources for county fairs and exhibitions about swine influenza. This information is available to help prepare for fairs, monitor animals during exhibition and to help exhibitors and parents understand and use biosecurity and good hygiene practices.

 Below are some tips that can help county fairs be proactive when checking in animals.

Monitoring animals at check-in

  • How to identify a sick pig:
    • Look for signs and symptoms of possible infections:
      • Coughing, sneezing, nasal discharge, labored breathing, lethargic animals that do not want to get up and animals that have gone off feed.
  • Check for elevated temperatures:
    • Please note: when taking the temperature of every animal at weigh-in, you run the risk of spreading a disease. Fairs should consider the risks of this protocol prior to requiring this to be done. It is suggested to have a thermometer on hand at weigh-in and only temp those pigs that appear to be symptomatic.
    • Normal rectal temp 101.5-103.5 degrees Fahrenheit.
    • When temping pigs, make sure that thermometer is properly cleaned between animals. It is suggested to use disposable sleeves for the thermometer and clean with disinfectant wipes.
  • Other signs of elevated temperatures:
    • Pigs are warm to the touch behind the ears and on the nose.
    • Blood shot eyes.

Reducing the spread of disease between pigs

  • Immediately quarantine any symptomatic pigs away from other animals.
  • Disinfect the scale (nose plate) between groups of pigs that are housed together.
    • Common disinfectants are:
      • Accelerated Hydrogen Peroxide products which kill the influenza virus when used as directed on hard, non-porous inanimate surfaces with a 1-minute contact time. The common name for these products are: Accel or Intervention.
      • Bleach/Water – 1 part bleach to 32 parts water ratio.
      • Continue to monitor animals in the barn throughout the fair. 

Did you find this article useful?