Members of the Wyandot County Board of Health shared their concerns about the H3N2 virus that has found its way to 66 people at 17 county fairs in the state of Ohio, with the 161st annual Wyandot County Fair quickly approaching.
The fair is set for Sept. 11-16 at the Wyandot County Fairgrounds.
Wyandot County Environmental Health Director Jeff Ritchey pointed out the flu is a mild version, with most people recovering within 24 hours; however, local health care professionals and fair representatives are taking the steps necessary in an attempt to avoid a problem before it happens.
“This is a flu-like virus that is transmitted among pigs and between pigs and humans,” Ritchey told health board members at their regular meeting Wednesday afternoon at Wyandot Memorial Hospital in Upper Sandusky. “(The state departments of agriculture and health) are looking for human-to-human transmission. So far, they have not documented that.”
The Ohio Department of Health has said people infected with the virus range in age from 6 months to 36 years old.
“The people who are becoming ill have … intimate contact with pigs,” Ritchey said. “When you look at what’s going on … fairs are a safe place to be. … It’s fascinating. We’re talking about buildings full of animal manure. Animals can have E. coli, salmonella and the flu. (People) probably shouldn’t eat in there in the first place.”
According to the ODH’s website, 17 cases in Butler County are the most in any one county in Ohio. Other counties that have reported cases include Ashland, one; Champaign, 13; Clark, three; Fairfield, one; Franklin, four; Gallia, 11; Greene, four; Hamilton, three; Licking, one; Medina, one; Monroe, two; Morrow, one; Preble, one; Ross, one; Union, one; and Warren, one.
The ODH says the H3N2 variant has not been show to be transmissible to people through eating pork and other products derived from swine.
Fair veterinarians will inspect all pigs before they are unloaded into the swine barn at the fair, Senior Fair Board members said last week when they met for a conference call with the Ohio Department of Agriculture and the Ohio Department of Health.
Health board President Dr. Joseph Sberna asked Ritchey if the health board has the power to take action, should an epidemic occur.
“We don’t have an epidemic. We have 66 cases in 17 counties,” Ritchey said. “The fair veterinarian is assuring livestock are healthy. If we thought it was an epidemic … Ohio law allows us to close schools or mass events. If the health commissioner felt that communicable diseases (were an issue), then yes. Our job is the education of humans.”
“We prevent an epidemic by not letting pigs in the fairgrounds,” Sberna responded.
Ritchey assured the board that the health department is working closely with the Wyandot County Fair Board, the Ohio State University Extension office and the state departments of health and agriculture.
Ritchey said the health department is sending information home with 4-H participants on Saturday, when book judging will take place at the fairgrounds.
“We really want the 4-H kids to be role models,” Ritchey said. He said the educational tips are common sense reminders, such as washing hands after being in any livestock barn and never eating or drinking in a barn where animals are being housed.
“We want (4-H members) to encourage their friends and their families to (follow the guidelines),” Ritchey added. “The fair boards are just being inundated with information. We’re trying to educate people. (The Wyandot County Senior Fair Board) has already looked at isolation of sick pigs. The fair vets, particularly this year, will (check for sick animals).”
Board member Mary Beth Stinehelfer said she hopes no pig will be unloaded into a barn until it has been inspected by a veterinarian. Dr. Robert Cope and his staff are the official fair veterinarians.
Tips from the ODH include washing hands often with soap and water or using an alcohol-based hand cleaner; washing hands before eating or touching eyes, nose or mouth; never eating, drinking or putting things in the mouth in animal areas; and always avoiding contact with animals that look or act ill. Young children, pregnant women, those with weakened immune systems and people 65 years and older are at higher risk and should be extra careful around animals.
In other business, the health board approved a motion for Wyandot County Health Department Director of Nursing Darlene Steward to set the vaccination fee between $25 to $30 per dose for the 2012-13 flu season, at Steward’s discretion. For the intramuscular dose, the reimbursement was $35.82 from Medicare and $26.64 from Medicaid in 2011. The cost of the vaccine is $10.60, up from $10.18 last year. Steward said the health department also needs to pay for syringes and employee time on top of the amount for each dosage.
The intradermal vaccine, a new type of vaccine being offered at the county health department this year, garnered $18.38 from Medicare and $31.81 from Medicaid last year. Its dosage cost is $15.40 for the vaccine only.
For the pediatric dose, the Wyandot County Health Department fee has been $12 and the vaccine is provided through the ODH at no cost. The health department is responsible only for supplies and employee time.
Steward said the Wyandot County Health Department has offered the vaccine for $25 since the 2009-10 flu season. She attempted to contact Seneca, Hardin, Marion, Crawford and Hancock counties to ask them what their fees were for this year, but none had set their fee before the meeting. With the per-dose price going up this year, Steward said she believes $25 to $30 will cover the costs.
“We can’t go too high or we won’t have anybody get the shot with us,” Steward said.
Steward said at June’s health board meeting that the state would not fund vaccines after October 2012; however, she said she received an update from the ODH that said it would cover the costs through March 2013.
“That gives us extra time to get our ducks in a row,” she said.
Steward also reported the health department raised about $530 at a rummage sale Saturday during the Lincoln Highway Buyway and the Upper Sandusky Community Garage Sales. She thanked health department staff and their spouses for volunteering their time for the sale.
Wyandot County Home Health Director Jane Weber reported home health will donate $60 to $100 for breakfast doughnuts to the Wyandot County Fair’s Senior Day, which will be held Sept. 13. She also reported the resignation of full-time registered nurse Becky Snyder and the promotion of formerly part-time nurse Angie Romich to full time.
Ritchey reported the Ohio Environmental Protection Agency’s annual solid waste survey has been completed.
“In accordance with their approval letter, we are currently in substantial compliance … and will remain on the approved list of heath districts authorized to administer and enforce Ohio solid waste laws and rules,” Ritchey wrote in a report to the board.
He also reported the Ohio Department of Agriculture food survey has been completed.
“Overall, the survey went very well,” Ritchey wrote. “The only two areas they wish us to improve upon include sanitarian evaluation/standardization and training.”
The health department received a Public Health Emergency Preparedness grant for $64,910, Ritchey said. That is less than the amount from last year’s grant, he said.
By ALISSA PAOLELLA