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Swine Flu Concerns At County Fairs

By WBZ-TV Chief Correspondent Joe Shortsleeve
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WBZ-TV's Joe Shortsleeve Joe Shortsleeve
Joe Shortsleeve is chief correspondent for WBZ-TV News weekdays a...
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BOSTON (CBS) – You might want to stay away from the pigs at the county fair.

National health experts say the swine flu is showing up at county fairs across the country. Chief correspondent Joe Shortsleeve says that has fair organizers here in Massachusetts taking extra precautions.

They are getting ready in Marshfield. Ten days from now the gates will open to the annual ten day fair which attracts 165,000 people. Photos from the fair’s web site show farm animals and pigs in particular a big part of the event.

Carleton Chandler runs the fair. He says he is well aware that some infected pigs at county fairs in other states have been linked to recent swine flu cases in humans, sending some people to the hospital.

But he says in Marshfield only healthy pigs will be on display.

He says, “We have got a quite a few precautions already in place and it is just a matter now that we know the potential of a problem that we have red flagged it and we will be that much more alert.”

Health experts say this is not the bird flu which got so much attention three years ago, yet a respiratory virus specific to infected pigs which can be transmitted to humans.

It is important to emphasize that this strain of the swine flu has not been detected in Massachusetts but it has shown up in New England. The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention says two cases have been confirmed in Maine.

In fact federal health officials say in the past 12 months, there have been 29 cases of swine flu in 8 states and most can be traced back to pigs at county fairs.

Chandler says, “We will also be much more cognizant to see where the animals are coming from.”

Brooks Henderson is helping set up the fair. He brings his kids every year.

“You know it is concerning,” he says. “My kids are young…four and two… so you want to make sure they don’t get exposed to something that could be a danger to them.”

But Henderson is confident all the safeguards are in place in Marshfield.

State officials say they are aware of the federal health concerns about pigs at county fairs. The Massachusetts Department of Agriculture tells WBZ in an e-mail that it is not a major concern but they are planning to,

“Forward recommendations from the CDC to state fair operators to minimize any kind of exposure.”

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