Is swine flu coming to a fair near you?

In an abundance of caution, the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention is warning fair goers to avoid petting the pigs at this year's fairs. The CDC believes swine exhibits have already exposed visitors to the H3N2v virus, a variant of the swine flu. According to the CDC's website, "Swine influenza is a respiratory disease of pigs caused by type A influenza viruses that regularly cause outbreaks of influenza in pigs. Influenza viruses that commonly circulate in swine are called "swine influenza viruses" or "swine flu viruses." Like human influenza viruses, there are different subtypes and strains of swine influenza viruses."

The swine flu does not always cross over to contaminate humans but in the past few years human infections have risen. So far the appearance of 12 cases in three states, Hawaii, Ohio, and Indiana, have put health officers on alert. The News Courier reports "We just want to get ahead of the curve, as these things do tend to spread," said Peter Beilenson, the health officer for Howard County, Md., which issued an alert Saturday. "We're not trying to raise hysteria. We're trying to make sure people avoid getting sick."

During late summer and early fall, county and regional fairs appear around the country providing the virus hundreds of opportunities to have contact with humans. To counteract the problem, many fair organizers are providing hand-sanitizing stations and portable sinks for visitors to keep their hands clean.

People who develop flu symptoms like fever, coughing, lack of appetite and diarrhea and have had direct contact with pigs should be tested for swine flu. You cannot contract swine flu from eating properly prepared pork.

Fear of more shortages of swine flu vaccination, like the ones we had a few years ago, make the possibility for outbreak disturbing for health departments.