Preventative Tips for Fairs & Exhibitions

Swine influenza at county fairs

  • As of August 8, 2019, the Michigan State University’s Veterinary Diagnostic Laboratory had confirmed pigs at three Michigan fairs positive for swine influenza: the Fowlerville Family Fair (three pigs on July 26), Eastern Michigan State Fair (five pigs on July 30) and the Jackson County Fair (10 pigs on August 8).
  • Samples were sent to the U.S. Department of Agriculture’s National Veterinary Services Laboratory in Ames, Iowa, to determine the type of influenza.
  • Both the Michigan Department of Health and Human Services and area local health departments were contacted and are managing the situation from the perspective of human health. In 2019, three fairs had confirmed cases of swine influenza in pigs and zero confirmed cases in humans.

Tips for helping to keep people healthy 

  • Communicate the need to wash hands regularly: entering and leaving barn, after touching animals and before eating and drinking. This is important for both exhibitors and fair visitors.
  • Alcohol-based hand sanitizers and wipe stations can also be used to disinfect hands after contact with animals.
  • Do not allow any food or beverages in the swine barn.
  • Minimize general public and exhibitor time in the barn with pigs. Consider only allowing foot traffic through one area of the barn. Minimize the physical contact between pigs and people
  • Seek medical care if exhibitors or visitors develop influenza-like symptoms.

Tips for helping to keep pigs healthy

  • Animal check-ins provide a key opportunity to identify sick or symptomatic pigs prior to them entering the barn. Make sure to do a thorough examination of hogs at check-in.
  • Continuously monitor pigs for signs of sickness throughout their exhibition time and notify your swine superintendent if pigs become symptomatic. Things to monitor include: 
    • Feed/water consumption. When pigs are off feed or depressed, it may be a sign that they are becoming ill.
    • Fever, nasal discharge, high respiration or heart rate, sneezing, coughing or barking.
    • Abnormal temperatures (normal temperature for a pig is 101.5 – 103.5 degrees Fahrenheit). If the temperature is equal to or greater than 105 degrees F, report to the Michigan Department of Agriculture and Rural Development at 800-292-3939 (daytime) and 517-373-0440 (nights, weekends and holidays)..
  • If sick pigs are identified at check-in or throughout the fair, immediately move sick pigs off-site or isolate them from other animals on the fairgrounds. Continue to observe pigs in adjacent pens for signs of sickness.
  • The influenza virus incubation time is one to four days; sending pigs to processing as early as possible will reduce the likelihood of clinical illness and spread of virus from pigs to people as well as pigs to pigs. Reminder: pigs with fevers should not be sent to processing, however, once fever has passed they may enter the food chain. Additional strategies to reduce the spread of the virus include:

    • Shortening the amount of time that pigs are at the fair (reducing the number of days pigs are exhibited at the fair).
    • Closing swine barn gates to the public after the pigs have been on site for 72 hours. 
  • Stress can increase the risk of illness in hogs. In hot weather, it is important to reduce the stress on pigs as much as possible. Strategies include:

    • Keeping pigs cool and hydrated. Sprinkle a few drops of cool water at the base of the animal’s head or the shoulder every 15 to 20 minutes during the heat of the day. This will keep them cool.
    • Auctioning pigs without running them through the sale ring - instead, have the seller only in the ring.
    • Moving the sale or show time to a cooler part of the day.

Transporting pigs to the fair

  • Transportation is a stressful time for pigs during periods of heat. Avoid moving pigs during the heat of the day.
  • Remove feed from pigs for 12 hours before shipment. Do not remove water.
  • Provide additional time when loading pigs.
  • Load fewer pigs to allow maximum air movement. Open all vents and slats.
  • When transporting pigs, remember that shavings hold heat and can cause pigs to become heat stressed. It is recommended to use no more than a ½” to 1” layer of bedding and allow pigs to access the cool trailer floor.
  • Keep vehicles in constant motion. Do not stop during the heat of the day. Avoid stops that other exhibitors may be using, such as gas stations or convenience stores.
  • Scheduling exhibitors for check-in could reduce the amount of waiting in line and pigs in a hot trailer, thereby reducing stress.

Biosecurity tips for exhibitors at fairs 

  • Have an exhibitor meeting(s) at the start of your event. Communicate the need to use proper hygiene and practice good biosecurity, how to contact the swine superintendent and how to identify a sick pig.
  • If space allows, avoid nose-to-nose contact between pigs from different families using an open space or solid penning.
  • Have an isolation area, removed from fair (public) traffic available to house and monitor sick or symptomatic animals.
  • It is important that fairs have disinfection plans in place to help reduce the spread of disease. Areas of high pig traffic or equipment that comes into contact with the nose of the pig should be prioritized for disinfection.
    • Scale(s) and sorting boards are at high risk for influenza transfer between commingled pigs. Disinfect scales frequently (between pigs from different families or every six to eight pigs handled) and sorting boards between classes of pigs during your show.
    • Wash areas should be disinfected and allowed to dry at least once per day. To make sure there is time to thoroughly dry after being disinfected, this should take place at night, when all pig movement is complete.
    • Consider providing a disinfection area and supplies for exhibitors to clean their equipment before it goes home.
  • Disinfectants can be applied using a hand sprayer, which has been properly labeled. Suggested disinfectants include:

    • Accelerated hydrogen peroxide (AHP), commonly known as Accel or Rescue, which can be sourced online and used at a rate of 1 cup product to one gallon of water.
    • Common household bleach at a rate of ½ cup bleach to one gallon water.
    • Detergents can be used to help break down organic matter and biofilm that may harbor disease. These can be used prior to applying disinfectant or added to the disinfectant/water mixture. Do not add ammonia or ammonia containing products to bleach mixtures.
    • Remember that bleach and other disinfectants should always be used under the direction of an adult. 

Food safety

  • You cannot get influenza from eating pork or handling pork products.
  • As with all meat, pork is safe to eat when proper cooking procedures are followed and meat reaches the appropriate internal cooking temperature. USDA recommends cooking pork roasts, steaks and chops to 145 degrees Fahrenheit with a three-minute rest time before carving or consuming. Ground pork patties and ground pork mixtures should be cooked to 160 degrees Fahrenheit. Also cook all organ and variety meats (such as heart, kidney, liver, tongue and chitterlings) to 160 degrees Fahrenheit.