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Pig virus prompts precautions at county fairs

By Katie Demeria

All those bringing animals to a county fair this year are asked to be cautious -- as they should be every year.

Due to a single case of the highly contagious porcine epidemic diarrhea discovered in Virginia, all pigs brought to the fairs will go to harvest, according to Virginia Cooperative Extension agent Corey Childs.

"The youth program participants will still have an opportunity to show pigs," Childs said. "The only difference is, this year the fairs are considered terminal."

All the county fairs in the Northern Shenandoah Valley, including Frederick, Shenandoah and Warren counties, will be terminal for pigs. The precaution was set in place based on the recommendation of the state veterinarian, Childs said.

Many, including Warren and Frederick counties, have also canceled their tots pig scramble events, as well. Shenandoah County, though, is still having what general manager Tom Eshelman called the biggest pig scramble in Virginia.

In order to keep all pigs safe and to ensure the virus does not spread, Childs encouraged everyone attending the fair to take precautions, especially if they or a neighbor raises their own pigs.

"You want to think about whether or not you want to walk through the pig barn," he said. "And if you do, which it's okay to do, most of the fairs are going to have some signage that talks about how to do some biosecurity, and most are going to have some sort of a foot bath to clean off shoes and so forth."

And if someone is going through the barn, he added, that individual should probably change his clothes before going straight home to a pig pen.

These efforts are purely precautions, Childs said, but necessary due to the virus's contagious nature.

But they are also probably smart precautions for any livestock owner visiting the fair, or anyone who lives near livestock, Childs added. When bringing a lot of animals together from various areas, the likelihood of some contagious illness spreading grows.

"Increased biosecurity is probably good information for all the species -- it's highly unlikely, of course, because all the fairs require the animal have health inspections before they arrive, but you never want to put yourself in a situation where you could carry something home to your beef or poultry farm," Childs said.

Shenandoah County is taking additional steps to ensure that the pigs used in the pig scramble are virus free, Eshelman said.

"We are getting our pigs from a Virginia farm, and they will all be documented with a letter from their farm's veterinarian," he said.

The fair is also introducing a new event called the Old McNally's pig derby, which involves racing pigs, goats and ducks. The pigs used in that event will be kept isolated.

Eshelman did say they have canceled its usual exhibit involving a sow and her piglets, as the virus is especially prevalent in young pigs.

The Frederick County Fair will take place between July 28 and Aug. 2, Warren County's Aug. 4-9, and Shenandoah County's Aug. 22-30.

Contact staff writer Katie Demeria at 540-465-5137 ext. 155, or kdemeria@nvdaily.com

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