State health officials are encouraging Hoosiers to take steps to protect themselves at county and 4-H fairs around the state this summer, following the detection of four cases of variant influenza A (H3N2v).
All of the persons with confirmed cases visited the Grant County Agricultural Fair, June 16-22, prior to illness, and at least two had contact with swine. Variant influenza A H3N2v was identified in Indiana last year, with a total of 138 cases in 2012.
The Indiana State Department of Health and the Grant County Health Department continue to investigate the cases. Human infections with H3N2v are rare but have most commonly occurred after close proximity to live infected pigs, such as working with them in barns and livestock exhibits at fairs. Influenza viruses are not transmitted by eating pork and pork products.
According to the State Board of Animal Health, 13 pigs at the fair tested positive for H3N2. It is not uncommon for pigs to be infected with swine influenza viruses and show no signs of illness. If ill with influenza, they typically recover.
“Fairs are a great way to get outdoors, have some fun and learn about agriculture,” said State Health Commissioner Dr. William VanNess. “If you plan to attend a fair this summer, just be sure to wash your hands frequently and avoid taking food into areas where animals are kept.”
Symptoms of variant influenza A include fever, cough, sore throat, chills, headache and muscle aches. Diarrhea and nausea may occur in children. Symptoms can begin approximately one to four days after being exposed to the illness and last from two to seven days.
As several county fairs will open in the next few weeks, officials are increasingly on the lookout for influenza-like illness.
“We are increasing our surveillance so we can learn more about this virus and because antiviral treatment is most effective if given within 48 hours,” said VanNess. “It’s important to contact your health care provider if you begin experiencing flu-like symptoms.”
Anyone who has visited a fair or been around animals should let a health care provider know. Influenza antiviral drugs can treat infection with H3N2v, and quick treatment is especially important for people who are at high risk of serious flu complications, including the very young, the elderly, people with chronic health conditions like asthma, diabetes and heart disease, and pregnant women.
Visiting animal exhibits is fun and educational, and Hoosiers are reminded to follow some simple safety steps to prevent illness:
• Wash hands with soap and water before and after petting or touching any animal.
• Never eat, drink or put anything in your mouth when visiting animal areas, and avoid face-to-face contact with animals.
• People at high risk for flu complications should avoid close contact with swine in the fair setting particularly.
Because there is no vaccine available for people to protect against this H3N2v virus, the best way to prevent infection with variant influenza is to avoid sources of exposure to the virus. Good hygiene and other everyday preventive actions also are important to take.
In 2012, the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention reported 309 infections with H3N2v in the United States. According to the CDC, most of these infections resulted in mild illness, though 16 people were hospitalized; one person died. Most of those hospitalized and the person who died had one or more high-risk conditions.
For more information about variant influenza A, visit www.StateHealth.in.