HUNTINGDON - The Pennsylvania Department of Health reported four confirmed and six probable human cases of influenza, a new strain of flu known as H3N2v, having been contracted at the Huntingdon County Fair.
According to the health department, the cases occurred solely in youth participants and didn't result in hospitalization. Although there is an ongoing investigation to determine the origin and cause of the flu, the illness is reported to transfer from pig to person rather than person to person.
"Pigs get a disease that is very similar to human flu, but it doesn't usually affect humans," said Stephen Ostroff, director of the health department's Bureau of Epidemiology. "In this case, similar to H1N1, the disease can transfer from the pig to the person. However, it is important to note that, unlike H1N1, there is no evidence that this strain can go from person to person."
According to the Center for Disease Control, there were 12 cases of H3N2v in the United States in 2011, three of which were from Pennsylvania. So far this year, there have been 225 total reports, the four from Huntingdon County Fair being the only reports from this state.
Most commonly, humans with close exposure to pigs, like children at a fair or workers in the swine industry, can become infected with a swine flu, reads the Center for Disease Control website. This is thought to happen mainly when an infected pig coughs or sneezes and droplets with influenza virus in them spread through the air. If these droplets get on your hands, lands in your nose or mouth or are inhaled, you may be infected.
"The last day or so of the fair, and for the week after, there was a higher than normal incidence of children becoming sick," said Kurt Eysenbach, superintendent of livestock for Huntingdon County Fair. "We determined that it seemed to be centered in one of the 4-H clubs that was showing a number of projects. Since than, the Department of Health has been in contact with them."
SWINE FLU PREVENTION
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.
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
Avoid contact with pigs if you are experiencing flu-like symptoms.
Source: Center for Disease Control
Based on the Dairy and Livestock Health Requirements created by The Huntingdon County Agricultural Association and documented in the 2012 Huntingdon County Fair Premium Booklet, all animals in the fair must have a Certificate of Veterinary Inspection confirming that the animal is free of any infectious and contagious diseases.
"All of the health guidelines were followed and animals were even checked a second time once the fair started," Eysenbach said. "We had no problems."
People at high risk for influenza complications should use caution and consider avoiding areas where live pigs are displayed, said Doctor Eli Avila, secretary of health for Pennsylvania Department of Health. Such people include children under 5 years of age, people 65 years of age and above, pregnant women and people with certain chronic medical conditions or weakened immune systems, she said.
"People should use common sense and take steps to protect their health if they're visiting or exhibiting in a county fair in the coming weeks, especially if they are at high risk for illness," Avila said.
For more information on swine flu statistics, symptoms and treatment, visit www.cdc.gov/flu/swineflu.