The Wyoming Department of Health has confirmed a salmonella outbreak caused by a pig or pigs at the Johnson County Fair.
After a number of Johnson County Fair participants fell ill with stomach cramps and diarrhea, the Department of Health requested stool samples from five people and was able to confirm that all five were suffering from the same type of salmonella.
According to the department’s surveillance epidemiologist Tiffany Greenlee, when two or more people get the same illness from contact with the same animal or animal environment, the event is called a zoonotic outbreak. Greenlee said the pathology reports indicate that the bacteria was transferred from animal to person via pig feces.
“Salmonella lives in animal intestines and is passed through excrement,” Greenlee said. “At fair, people are around their animals extensively – washing and feeding and grooming, and it’s pretty easy to get animal poop on your hands. We believe people got it from pig poop.”
Greenlee said that an animal might be asymptomatic, yet still affected by salmonella.
“Not all animals will show symptoms, so we tell people to just assume that animal poop might have germs in it and wash your hands after working with animals and wash your hands before you eat.”
Johnson County Fair Board President Laci Schiffer said that all animals exhibited at the fair undergo a health inspection before the opening of exhibits, and the fair has veterinarians on call the entire week of the fair should an animal appear ill.
Most salmonella infections can be classified as stomach flu and cause nausea, vomiting, abdominal cramps, diarrhea, fever, chills and general malaise.
“We were lucky in this outbreak that people recovered and were OK. Most people who do get infected with salmonella recover in a week or so,” Greenlee said. “The groups we worry about are the elderly, young children under age 5 or people with a weakened immune system.”
Greenlee said that after confirming the outbreak, the Health Department sent a survey to fair participants to determine how many people had been affected. Those numbers are not yet available.
Schiffer said the fair board takes participant and animal health very seriously and the fair board will discuss health and safety at their next meeting.
“This particular outbreak, it was people visiting the animal barns. It was people having contact with the fair environment and then eating or touching their faces,” Greenlee said. “We’ve had outbreaks at fairs before; it’s not unusual. It’s just a good reminder to have better hand hygiene and take extra precautions at fair. All these animals are together in the same environment; they’re stressed out. You and your animal are around a lot of new germs, so be a little extra careful in fair environments.”