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      DHEC warns State Fair visitors about new swine flu

      South Carolina health officials are warning visitors to the upcoming state fair to be vigilant about a new strain of swine flu.

      COLUMBIA, S.C. (WACH / AP) -- South Carolina health officials are warning visitors to the upcoming state fair to be vigilant about a new strain of swine flu.

      The Department of Health and Environmental Control said Tuesday it is working with Clemson University to prevent the spread of the new flu strain known as H3N2v.

      ??H3N2v is a new strain of the influenza virus that is circulating in pigs and has infected a number of people in several states,?? said Interim State Epidemiologist Linda Bell, M.D. ??Influenza is a reportable condition in South Carolina and part of our ongoing disease surveillance activities. At this time, we have not identified an Influenza A H3N2v case in South Carolina.??

      Interim State Epidemiologist Linda Bell says the virus circulates in pigs and has infected people in several states but not South Carolina. It can be directly transmitted between people and swine, but officials say people cannot get sick by eating properly handled and prepared pork products.

      ??Spread of the new influenza virus has been limited to people who have had direct contact with infected pigs or are close contacts of those who are infected,?? said Dr. Bell. ??Many cases resulted from caring for pigs at local fairs. With the upcoming arrival of the State Fair and several county fairs across the state, we encourage people to take good sense steps to protect themselves against possible exposure. These steps can help ensure a trip to the fair is both fun and safe.??

      To prevent the spread of the illness, Bell recommends frequent hand-washing and never taking food or drink into animal areas at the fair.

      The South Carolina State Fair funs Oct. 10-21 in Columbia.

      (The Associated Press contributed to this report.)