From July 12 to Aug. 9, the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) is reporting a total of 153 humans infected with H3N2v which is a variant of the respiratory disease caused by Type A influenza viruses.
One (1) case of the virus has been detected in Hawaii, one (1) in Illinois, 120 cases in Indiana and 31 in Ohio. All cases are associated with exposure at county fairs, with the exception of the case in Hawaii which involved a person in contact with pigs on her family’s farm.
“While rare, pig influenza can spread from pigs to people and vise versa. That’s why this increase in cases is of concern. With the fall livestock exhibits at festivals and fairs coming up here in Louisiana, we urge anyone dealing with pigs to take precautionary measures to ensure their safety,” LDAF Commissioner Mike Strain said.
“All of these affected people had contact with pigs. We urge everyone to use precautionary measures such as washing your hands frequently if you are in contact with pigs and informing your doctor if you have influenza-like symptoms. The fortunate thing is that no one has died from this virus,” said Dr. Frank Welch, medical director for the immunization program with the Department of Health and Hospitals.
Livestock show facts and safety tips:
• Local fairs and livestock shows provide an opportunity for large numbers of people to closely interact with animals
• Animals can infect people with what are called zoonotic diseases caused by infectious agents that can be transmitted between animals and humans
• Influenza viruses are not transmitted by food; you cannot get influenza from eating pork or pork products
• Swine are susceptible to influenza and are commonly infected with strains that people are not susceptible to
• Recent reports of swine illness at county fairs in Indiana and Ohio have been associated with illness in swine exhibitors and other people closely linked to swine at the fairs
There are ways to reduce the spread of influenza from swine to people:
• Wash your hands often with soap and running water before and after exposure to pigs. If soap and water are not available, use an alcohol-based hand rub.
• Never eat, drink or put things in your mouth in areas where pigs are located, and don’t take food or drink into these areas.
• Never take toys, pacifiers, spill-proof cups, baby bottles, strollers or similar items into areas where pigs are located.
• Avoid close contact with pigs that look or act ill.
• Avoid contact with pigs if you are experiencing flu-like symptoms. Avoid contact for 7 days after symptoms begin or until you have been fever-free for 24 hours without the use of fever-reducing medications, whichever is longer.
• Watch your pigs for signs of illness and call a veterinarian if you suspect they might be sick.
Children younger than 5 years, people 65 years and older, pregnant women, and people with certain chronic medical conditions (like asthma, diabetes, heart disease, weakened immune systems, and neurological or neurodevelopmental conditions) are at high risk from serious complications if they get influenza.
These people should consider avoiding exposure to pigs and swine barns this fair season, especially if sick pigs have been identified.
LDAF Office of Animal Health and Food Safety will work with the LSU AgCenter to take a proactive role in surveillance at local shows and fairs to limit human exposure to infected animals.
Symptoms typical of the flu include runny nose, sore throat, eye irritation, nausea, vomiting and diarrhea. A seasonal flu vaccine will not protect people against H3N2v, but there are influenza antiviral drugs that can treat human H3N2v illness as well as infection with seasonal influenza viruses.