Upswing In Local Swine Flu Linked To County Fair Pigs

Cases Confirmed in Jackson & Jennings Counties

The Indiana State Department of Health confirmed last Thursday a case of a variation of influenza A, commonly called Swine Flu, bringing the total to nine cases In Jackson and Jennings Counties as of August 2. Health department officials said 17 human cases of variant influenza A virus (a variant influenza A H3N2 virus) have been detected in the US since August 2011, six of which were in Indiana. Since that occurrence, increased vigilance has been encouraged across the state.

Some physicians and Schneck Medical Emergency Room workers have detected increased influenza activity.

“We have submitted specimens from a local physician and the emergency room of Schneck for testing,” said Dr. Kenneth Bobb, Medical Officer at the Jackson County Health Department.

Swab samples have been collected from individuals showing signs of infection and have been sent to the ISDH lab for testing and results will not be available for a few days. A follow up test will be conducted by the Centers for Disease Control in Atlanta, GA, that is conducting surveillance and trying to determine how the virus is being spread.

“The preponderance of information is that the cases have had contact with swine at the county fair, either by visiting or working in the swine barns,” stated Bobb.

Variant Influenza A virus can be directly transmitted from swine to people and from people to swine. Human infections are most likely to occur when people are in close proximity to infected pigs, such as working with them in barns and livestock exhibits at fairs. The State Board of Animal Health encourages swine owners to contact a veterinarian if their animals show signs consistent with flu, including coughing, respiratory illness, off-feed and fever.

Influenza viruses are not transmitted by eating pork and pork products, health officials said.

This virus is related to human flu viruses from the 1990s, so adults should have some immunity against these viruses, but young children probably do not. Early steps to make a vaccine against H3N2v have been taken, but no decision to mass produce such a vaccine has been made. Dr. Bobb also stated that “this illness is self-limiting which means it is not spreading rapidly or without some direct exposure and we do not have good evidence that it is transmitted from human to human at this time.”

“The best way to prevent the spread of infection and influenza viruses between people, including H3N2v, can be reduced by taking a combination of actions and practicing good personal hygiene”, said Dr. Bobb. The Health Department would like to encourage local residents to follow the CDC recommendations:

•Wash your hands often with soap and water, especially after petting or touching any animal or after you cough or sneeze

•Never eat, drink or put anything in your mouth when visiting animal areas.

•Cough or sneeze into your sleeve or elbow.

•Avoid touching your eyes, nose or mouth

•Try to avoid close contact with people who are ill.

•If you are sick, stay home from work or school until your illness is over

Increased vigilance has also been encouraged for those who work with or handle livestock, particularly swine, older adults, pregnant women, young children and people with weakened immune systems.