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Is Swine Flu a Risk at Local Fairs?

If you're planning on visiting the local fairs and checking out the livestock, the Illinois Department of Public Health is advising you to take some common sense precautions.

They're asking people to wash their hands with soap and water after leaving swine barns, and not to eat or drink around the pigs.

They are not recommending visitors avoid livestock, but just take those common sense precautions.

The advisory is regarding H3N2v, which is a form of swine influenza that flared up last summer, primarily in Indiana.

But fair officials and hog producers hope these types of advisories don't scare people away from coming through the barns and checking out the livestock.

"We come from a family farm and we're around them everyday, so it's second nature to us," Logan County swine producer Thomas Titus said. "But a lot of people who are fairgoers don't get that kind of exposure, so it's great for them to see where the food on their plate comes from, see where that pork chop or that bacon is derived from."

Swine show judge Bill Range hopes these worries don't hurt show attendance.

"It may affect it a little bit, but I don't think it needs to," Range said. "I think if people just use common sense and realize that any time you're exposed to more people, more places, more animals, you have the opportunity to maybe pick up a little something, and that's kind of the way life is."

Whenever hog producers hear the term swine flu, they get a little nervous, but not because of the virus itself.

"The hysteria that surrounded the H1N1 virus was very detrimental to the pork industry," Titus said. "The prices dropped dramatically, and there was little reason or withholding for that to occur."

And there's one thing they all hope people keep in mind.

"The US Center for Disease Control and Prevention came out and verified eating pork is still safe," Titus said. "I mean the H3N2v virus is not transmissible through the eating or handling of pork."

We also spoke with the Illinois Pork Producers Association.

They tell us that they will be putting up some signs around the hog barns at the Illinois State Fairgrounds, warning people to take simple precautions, like not eating or drinking around the pigs and to wash their hands once they leave.

So far, the department has only one confirmed case of H3N2V in humans this year--in a boy from Boone County who had visited the DuPage County fair.

They said H3N2V is similar in symptoms and severity to the seasonal flu.