The Maryland Department of Health has presumptively identified the influenza virus strain H3N2v (variant flu) in seven Maryland residents who had close contact with pigs at the Charles County Fair. None of the infected individuals has developed serious illness or been hospitalized.
Influenza is an infection caused by the influenza virus which can affect people and other animals, including pigs and birds. Symptoms for the H3N2v strain are the same as seasonal flu and include fever and respiratory symptoms, such as sore throat and cough. Historically, there is limited human to human transmission from this strain of variant flu. The treatment recommendations for this strain of influenza are the same as for seasonal flu.
Twenty other cases of variant flu have been detected in other states this year. Of those, 18 were also the virus strain H3N2v. Illnesses associated with these variant flu infections have been mostly mild with symptoms similar to those of seasonal flu. In 2012, 13 individuals developed influenza after direct contact with sick pigs at the Queen Anne’s County fair in Maryland.
Certain people are at higher risk for complications of influenza, including children under five, the elderly, pregnant women, and those with chronic heart, lung, liver, kidney and neurologic conditions or immunosuppression. The spread of influenza, including the possible spread of H3N2v, between humans can be prevented by:
- Avoiding close contact with sick people;
- Limiting contact with others as much as possible if you are sick to keep from infecting them and staying home from work or school if you are sick until you are fever free for 24 hours without fever reducing medicines;
- Covering your nose and mouth with a tissue when you cough or sneeze and dispose of the tissue immediately after use;
- Washing your hands often with soap and water or alcohol-based hand rub if soap and water are not available;
- Avoiding touching your eyes, nose and mouth;
- Cleaning and disinfecting surfaces and objects that may be contaminated with germs like the flu; and
- Getting the seasonal influenza vaccine when it becomes available. Although it is not effective against H3N2v, it is protective against other common strains of influenza.