Experts at the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) are warning that anyone planning to attend state fairs should take care around pigs due to a new strain of swine flu that has been passing from the mammals to people.
According to AP Medical Writer Mike Stobbe, there have been 29 reported cases of the new influenza strain confirmed in the US over the past year.
Twelve of those came during the past week alone, including 10 linked to the recent Butler County Fair in southwestern Ohio, he said. One of the remaining cases was reported in Hawaii, while the other originated from Indiana, the agency told various media outlets this past week.
The new swine flu strain “has not been unusually dangerous,” Stobbe said. “All of the recent cases were mild, as were most of the earlier illnesses. But even regular flu can be a serious illness,” according to CDC officials.
Experts are warning fairgoers to avoid contact with creatures that appear to be ill, to ensure that they wash their hands after handling any farm animals, and to avoid taking any food and drinks with them into livestock barns, added Deborah Kotz of the Boston Globe .
A total of 16 people have become infected with the new flu strain, which is a variation of influenza A (H3N2) known as H3N2v, in the past three weeks, Stobbe and CNN’s Miriam Falco explained. No one who has contracted the illness this year has required hospitalization, and none of the 29 total cases have been fatal, Falco added.
“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,” Stobbe said. “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.”
“CDC researchers said that while the genetic makeup of the flu strains found in all three states is similar, they do not believe the cases in Hawaii, Indiana and Ohio are related,” added Falco, who also noted that CDC officials are “not equating this new H3N2 flu with the 2009 flu, but a new H3N2 vaccine is in the early stages of development and clinical trials are expected later this year.”