An influenza strain (H3N2v) that caused flu illness in small numbers of people during 2011, has appeared again on the national scene this summer, reports the Dickinson-Iron District Health Department.
This virus usually infects pigs, not people, and is very different from usual human seasonal H3N2 virus strain.
Last year, there were about a dozen cases of this flu and most were in people who had direct contact with pigs.
However, there were a small number of cases that appeared to be transmitted person to person in 2011, said Dr. Terry Frankovich, M.D., M.P.H., Medical Director of the Dickinson-Iron District Health Department.
Over the past few weeks, approximately 135 cases have been identified across the country and all have been in individuals who had some contact with swine, the Centers for Disease Control (CDC) says.
Most of this contact was in a state/county fair setting.
There have been no reported cases in Michigan to date.
Because the virus showed some ability to spread person-to-person last year and because of a recent uptick in cases, the CDC has asked states to make sure health care providers are aware of this 'off-season' flu, in order to identify new cases.
There is no risk of developing flu from contact with or eating pork products, Dr. Frankovich said.
So far, this flu has caused symptoms much like our usual seasonal flu.
Symptoms include fever, cough, sore throat, muscle aches and headache.
This year there have been only two hospitalizations and no deaths related to H3N2v flu.
In order to decrease the spread of this flu from pigs to people, the CDC recommends the following:
- Wash your hands frequently with soap and running water before and after exposure to animals.
- Never eat, drink or put things in your mouth in animal areas.
- Young children, pregnant women and people 65 and older should be extra careful around animals.
- If you have animals, including swine, watch them for signs of illness and call a veterinarian if you suspect they might be sick.
- Avoid close contact with animals that look or act ill, when possible.
- Avoid contact with pigs if you are experiencing flu-like symptoms.
Just like during regular flu season, you can decrease the chance of spreading flu within the community by staying home when you are ill, covering your nose and mouth when you cough or sneeze and washing your hands frequently-particularly before eating.
Ill individuals may be treated with the same medication used to treat seasonal flu.
It is likely there will be few cases of this flu seen across the country this summer, but since many of us will be out and about enjoying our county fairs, it is good to be aware of simple prevention strategies.
For more information, contact your health care provider or the Dickinson Iron District Health Department at 779-7208.