Swine flu cases that seem to be spreading via pigs at fairs have seen a sharp rise in the last week, the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention report.
In its latest Morbidity and Mortality Weekly Report the agency said there were 29 cases of the H3N2 variant virus from July 2011 through July 2012. But from July 12 to August 9, 2012 there were 153 cases reported in several states. Indiana had 120 cases, Ohio had 31 and Hawaii and Illinois each had one.
While most of the incidents have been mild, and the CDC is not declaring this a pandemic, there is concern over the spike in numbers. About 93 percent of the cases were in children under 18. Children may be particularly susceptible since they lack the antibodies needed to fight the infection.
In a press briefing last week, CDC influenza expert Dr. Joseph Bresee said most of the occurances have also been linked back to having some exposure to live pigs, such as exhibiting them or being at fairs that feature pigs. No deaths have been reported but two people were hospitalized.
“This time of the year is when you have county and state fairs in states around the country,” Bresee said. “There's thousands of them. So I think in that setting, there's lots of close exposure between humans and pigs, especially kids.”
This particular H3N2v flu strain contains the M gene from the H1N1 flu virus. That makes it more easily transmitted from animals to humans. Bresee said that some limited human-to-human passing of the virus has been seen before, and adds it may happen again.
Although there’s no vaccine for this flu strain, Bresee advises people get a flu shot anyway. “Everybody should get a flu vaccine this year in the U.S.,” he said, “because flu, regular seasonal flu, will be here soon.”
Fair-goers have also been cautioned to avoid coming in contact with pigs. If you do touch a pig, wash your hands and don’t eat or put things in your mouth while in an animal area.
Will you get a flu shot this year? Let us know in the comments.