Department of Health reports cases of new flu strain

HARRISBURG – The Pennsylvania Department of Health reported today four confirmed and six probable human cases of influenza due to a new strain of the flu known as H3N2v.

While this strain is typically associated with swine, both the departments of Health and Agriculture emphasize that handling or eating pork products presents no risk of exposure to influenza.

The Pennsylvania cases occurred among youth participants in the Huntingdon County Fair, Aug. 5 to 11. There are no reported hospitalizations. Although the investigation is ongoing, there is no evidence to date of the new flu strain spreading from person-to-person.

This is the same virus that has recently caused illness in Indiana and Ohio, mostly among children who were exhibitors at or attended agricultural fairs. The illnesses reported in Pennsylvania are also mostly in children and are typical for the flu.

“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,” said Secretary of Health Dr. Eli N. Avila.

Avila said fair attendees should wash their hands after visiting areas with live animals and avoid carrying food or drink or putting things in their mouth while in these areas.

People at high risk of influenza complications should use caution and consider avoiding areas where live pigs are displayed. Those at high risk include:

· Children less than 5 years of age;

· People 65 years of age and above;

· Pregnant women and

· People with certain chronic medical conditions or weakened immune systems.

Symptoms of the H3N2v flu are similar to that of seasonal influenza, and would include fever, coughing, fatigue, and lack of appetite. Other influenza symptoms may include a runny nose, sore throat, muscle aches, eye irritation, nausea, vomiting and diarrhea.

Anyone with flu-like illness who has been in contact with live animals including pigs at agricultural fairs or on farms in the week before they got sick should contact their healthcare providers, their local health department, or the Pennsylvania Department of Health at 1-877-PA-HEALTH for advice and appropriate follow-up.

Flu viruses are mainly spread through the air from coughs and sneezes. Again, both the departments of Health and Agriculture emphasize that there is no risk of exposure to influenza from handling or eating pork products.

Additional information on H3N2v can be found on the Department of Health web page at www.health.state.pa.us or on the website of the federal Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) at www.cdc.gov.

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