A pig died at the Madison County Fair over the weekend as a result of strep throat, the state’s veterinarian said Monday.
The illness was a result of stress on the animal, as well as drastic temperature changes, said Dr. Tony Forshey of the Ohio Department of Agriculture.
But a Facebook post published Sunday has put fair board members and a Madison County commissioner on the defense. The social media post alleges Commissioner Paul Gross was seen giving his daughter’s sick hog an injection, then placing a fan on the animal, spreading the infection to others in the barn.
The post also states Gross was asked by a fair veterinarian to remove the animal, but refused. The vet went to fair board members, who backed the commissioner and donor.
But none of it is true, say fair officials.
“That conversation never happened,” said member Quinton Keeran, who worked with all parties to release a statement online Sunday night after the original post was shared nearly 500 times.
He called it “an unfortunate issue.”
Keeran said a pig was found dead in the barn about 2 a.m. on Saturday. The fair veterinarian, Tony Xenikis, notified the state agriculture’s office, who immediately sent representatives to transport the animal back to the state office for testing. Meanwhile, the barn was placed on quarantine while each animal was inspected.
It was determined from an autopsy the pig was suffering from the strain of strep throat, a bacterium living in the tonsils of most pigs and capable of causing meningitis. Two other pigs showing symptoms were also removed from the barn.
The barn was released from quarantine at about 6 a.m. Saturday. The other two pigs recovered from their coughs, were sold on Saturday and sent to the packer on Sunday, said Keeran. He said he knows of one other animal, a breeding hog, that died after being taken home from the fair.
The pig likely had its immune system compromised by heat and stress, Forshey told the Press on Monday. There is no food safety issue, he added.
“It got down to 67 or 68 that night and then was in the high 80s throughout the day. Any time you have a 20-degree fluctuation you can precipitate disease,” he said.
“You’re dealing with an animal that can’t sweat,” he added. “High heat and high humidity — it’s hard on people and hard on animals. It can happen in normal instances.”
It’s impossible to identify which pig the illness started with because a perfectly healthy pig can be the carrier without showing symptoms, Keeran said.
“In no way can we pin-point where this came from,” he said.
Politics aside, Gross said Monday he’s disgusted with the post, which caused his daughter stress and tears after working hard all summer on her projects.
“Let’s face it, I’ve not been a popular commissioner, but for God’s sake leave my daughter alone,” he said. “If you want to put me in your target, I don’t mind. When you put my 10-year-old daughter in your target, I do mind.”
Gross said his family brought a healthy pig to the fair, and the animal was never sick throughout the week. He imagines the rumor started as a result of one of his pig’s suffering from a bleeding mouth after the two animals got into a scuffle inside their pen over food.
He did place a fan on the pig one day when it was apparent it was stressed.
“People take things and run with them,” he said.
The fair board did the “noble thing” by reaching out to the state about the pig that died, Gross said.
Some Facebook comments have said the illness was aided by animals on the perimeter of the barns being exposed to cool air at night.
Keeran said the board will continue to evaluate all aspects of the fair, including the facilities, to determine the best ways to improve the event in the future.
He emphasized fair board officials followed proper protocol. Members are individuals who “give graciously of their time and talent” for the youth of the community.
“We will continue moving forward and making the Madison County Fair a better place for our kids and community,” he said.
Reach Andrea Chaffin at 740-852-1616, ext. 1619, and on Twitter @AndeeWrites.