Pigs at state fairs may carry swine flu: study

Eric Pfeiffer
The Sideshow

Double bacon corn dogs aren't the only porkers that can be dangerous to your health at state fairs around the country. A new study led by University of Minnesota veterinarian Dr. Jeff Bender warns that many of the seemingly healthy pigs on display at state fairs this summer may in fact be carrying the swine flu.

"This study just shows that viruses are shared between pigs and people," Bender told the Star Tribune. "We were expecting, boy, if pigs had virus then they should be [feverish], sick." Instead, the results, taken from samples at the 2009 Minnesota State Fair, indicate that spotting the virus may be harder than expected.

Test results found that 11 of the 57 tested pigs19 percenthad the H1N1 flu virus. A similar test in 2008 turned up zero infected pigs. The tests were taken when the H1N1 was believed to be at peak levels of infection across the country.

The findings were published in the August 2012 edition of the journal Emerging Infectious Diseases.

While the test results from a single year cannot predict the potential number of pigs infected with the flu virus this year, it still raises concerns. As the Tribune notes, more than 150 people around the country this year have already contracted a new type of swine flu after coming into contact with pigs at state fairs.

On August 9, the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention said that 158 cases of swine flu were reported that week alone, a five-fold increase of the new viral strain, largely centered in Indiana and Ohio.

Nonetheless, Bender says that he believes people are most likely to blame for the sick pigs.

"What we do know is that there was a lot of circulating virus in people," he said. "Our suspicion is there probably was an exhibitor who brought it in and shared it with the pigs."