Spike in Flu Strain Spreading from Pigs to People
With at least a dozen fairs happening across Minnesota this weekend, health officials are advising people to think twice before petting the pigs.
According to the Centers for Disease Control, there has been a five-fold increase in the number of H3N2 cases in human beings. The virus is nothing new to pigs, however it is new to humans. It only recently became transmissible from swine to people. Richard Danila, Deputy State Epidemiologist with the Minnesota Department of Health, explains "In this case there is a virus that's been found in pigs for quite some time called H3N21, but it recently apparently picked up one of the genes from the recent human pandemic influenza virus."
According to Danila, symptoms of H3N2 resemble those of seasonal flu, including coughing, running nose, aches and chills. They are also equally dangerous and potentially lethal. However, unlike seasonal flu, there is no vaccine for H3N2.
Health officials advise anyone exposed to swine who displays flu-like symptoms to contact a physician. They advise either avoiding contact with pigs, or washing hands immediately after. Those most at risk include pregnant women, the elderly, the very young, and those with compromised immunity or underlying medical conditions.