A cluster of flu cases linked to contact with pigs has doctors at the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention warning people to wash up and avoid eating around animals as they attend county and state fairs.
The new influenza strain sickened at least 12 people last week. All cases involved recent contact with pigs at agricultural fairs. Hawaii and Indiana each has one case, and 10 were linked to last week's Butler County Fair in Ohio. Four other cases have been linked to a county fair in Indiana that ran July 8-14. None resulted in hospitalization or death.
The new flu goes by the name influenza A (H3N2) variant, or H3N2v, and was first identified in humans a year ago, says Joseph Bresee of the CDC
Influenza Division. Of the 29 cases that have been reported so far, 80% "had swine contact before getting ill and most of that contact was at county fairs," he said.
The flu is clinically identical to the regular seasonal flu, with fever, cough, sore throat and body aches. H3N2v is not a food-borne illness, Bresee says. You can't get it from eating pork. But you can get it from being around sick pigs.
To avoid H3N2v, people attending agricultural fairs and other events involving swine should take these precautions, CDC says:
• Wash hands with soap and water before and after exposure to animals.
• Avoid eating, drinking or putting anything in the mouth in animal areas.
• Don't take food or drink into animal areas.
• Pregnant women, young children, the elderly and those with chronic illnesses should avoid exposure to animal areas.
• If you develop flu symptoms after attending an agricultural fair, tell your doctor.
• Avoid sick pigs.