Swine Flu Spreading Through Contact With Infected Animals At Fairs
Lawrence LeBlond for redOrbit.com – Your Universe Online
Experts at the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) have warned that anyone attending state fairs this year should use caution when visiting pig enclosures due to a new strain of swine flu that is passing from mammals to humans.
Initial reports stated that 29 cases of the new strain had affected people since the beginning of the year. But in the past week more than 30 cases have been reported in Ohio alone, all from people who attended fairs. And more cases have been reported across 18 Indiana counties.
Indiana state health officials said on Wednesday that human cases have risen tenfold in a week, confirming 113 people have been infected, and said they are expecting to see more. That number jumped from 11 just last week.
Officials said they were closing the swine barn at its state fair a day early after six pigs showed elevated temperatures that may be a signs of the illness.
“It’s important for folks to remember this is a mild illness with symptoms similar to what we see with seasonal flu,” Indiana state health commissioner Dr. Gregory Larkin told Reuters’ Susan Guyett in a statement.
Still, it is important for people to wash their hands before and after they are near swine and to not eat or drink while in close proximity to pigs, health officials warned.
The new strain, H3N2v, had first surfaced in July 2011 and 29 cases had been reported as of last week. While the cases have ballooned in the past week, officials are thankful there has yet been no human-to-human transmission of the disease confirmed in Ohio.
“We believe most of these cases are still due to contact with pigs,” CDC spokesman Tom Skinner said in a statement on Wednesday. “However, limited human-to-human transmission with this virus has been observed in the past and we expect that some human to human spread will be observed in these current outbreaks.”
“Scientists believe the H3N2 influenza virus, which is commonly found in pigs, managed to add a gene from the H1N1 flu virus that caused a world-wide pandemic among humans in 2009,” said AP medical writer Mike Stobbe. “That gene made it easier for the virus to be transmitted from pigs to people. The good news is that although the new flu variant seems to move more easily between pigs and humans, it doesn’t move easily between people.”
While swine flu rarely jumps to humans, it can be spread if people are near an infected pig that coughs or sneezes. The flu is also spread when a person touches an infected pig and then touches their own face.