Ohio State researchers using county fair pigs to develop new flu vaccines


by Chris White, WSYX/ABC6onYourSide.com (OH) 

August 12th 2019


COLUMBUS, Ohio (WSYX/WTTE) — Researchers with The Ohio State University College of Veterinary Medicine has been working to identify new flu strains at county fairs.


Teams have been working to increase the effectiveness of the flu vaccine by studying pigs in Ohio and across the country.


Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) data says the 2009 flu pandemic, which infected 60 million people in the United States and left 12,000 dead originated in pigs. Dr. Andrew Bowman and his College of Veterinary Medicine team has since been looking at pigs at country fairs for answers. Bowman's team travels to over 100 country fairs each year to swab snouts of exhibition pigs to help identity new flu strains.


“We get pigs from lots of farms in one spot, and so we can do surveillance rather efficiently instead of going farm to farm to find out what flu strains are out there,” said Bowman, who is also an associate professor of veterinary preventive medicine. “If we’re able to detect that there’s likely influenza in the samples, then we’ll try to grow that virus and use that research to help offer a more broadly protective vaccine.”


Bowman said county fairs are ideal for identifying new viruses because fairs offer and ideal environment for disease to spread among animals, and potentially from pigs to humans. He recommends fair-goers wash their hands frequently and enjoy fair food and drinks outside the bard area. Bowman also suggests that anyone at high risk, such as infants and those with compromised immune systems, should observe the animals from a distance.


It’s challenging for health officials to predict what the flu season will look like from year to year...


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