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Influenza A H3N2v Updates

As Ohio’s 2013 agricultural fair season kicks off, the Ohio Departments of Health (ODH) and Agriculture (ODA) are reminding Ohioans to practice good hygiene when visiting livestock exhibits this summer.

Illnesses, such as influenza viruses, are commonly carried by livestock and can be directly transmitted between animals and humans in the same way those illnesses are often transmitted between people.

Individuals should always wash hands with soap and water before and after petting or touching any animal. Never eat, drink, or put anything in your mouth in animal areas. Parents and caregivers are encouraged to leave strollers outside the animal exhibits and carry small children. Older adults, pregnant women, young children, and people with weakened immune systems should consider avoiding animal areas.

Take Action to Prevent the Spread of Flu Viruses Between People and Swine

  • Wash your hands frequently with soap and running water before and after exposure to animals.
  • Never eat, drink or put things in your mouth in animal areas, and don’t take food or drink into animal areas.
  • Children younger than 5 years, people 65 years and older, pregnant women, and people with certain chronic medical conditions (like asthma, diabetes, heart disease, weakened immune systems, and neurological or neurodevelopmental conditions) are at high risk from serious complications if they get influenza. These people should avoid exposure to pigs and swine barns during this fair season.
  • Visitors should not carry toys, pacifiers, spill-proof cups, baby bottles, strollers or similar items into areas with pigs.
  • Young children, pregnant women, people 65 and older and people with weakened immune systems should be extra careful around animals.
  • If you have animals – including swine – watch them for signs of illness and call a veterinarian if you suspect they might be sick.
  • Avoid close contact with animals that look or act ill, when possible.
  • Avoid contact with swine if you are experiencing flu-like symptoms.

If you must come in contact with swine while you are sick, or if you must come in contact with swine known or suspected to be infected, or their environment, you should use appropriate protective measures (for example, wear protective clothing, gloves, masks that cover your mouth and nose, and other personal protective equipment) and practice good respiratory and hand hygiene.

Although there is no reason to avoid state or county fair activities, you are encouraged to take precaution especially in the animal exhibit areas. Print the poster: KNOW How to be Safe Around Animals.

What is the Origin of the H3N2v Flu Virus?
Type A influenza viruses, including H3N2 and the variants, commonly infect swine, causing outbreaks among swine herds. Most of the type A influenza viruses that infect swine are genetically very different from human (seasonal) influenza viruses. While these variant influenza viruses seldom infect humans, such infections can and do occur. In fact, influenza viruses can spread both from swine to humans and from humans to swine.

How Are Variant Influenza Viruses Spread?
When a human is infected with a flu virus that normally circulates in swine, this virus is called a “variant virus” because it is different from seasonal influenza viruses. These infections have been most likely to occur when people are in direct contact with infected swine, such as in swine barns and livestock exhibits housing swine at fairs. This kind of transmission is thought to occur in the same way that seasonal flu transmits in people, which is mainly through coughing or sneezing by people who are infected. People also may become infected by touching something with flu viruses on it and then touching their mouth or nose. It’s important to note that in most cases, variant flu viruses have not shown the ability to spread easily and sustainably from person-to-person.

Is It Safe To Eat Pork?
Yes. H3N2 variant has not been shown to be transmissible to people through eating pork or other products derived from swine.

What Symptoms Do People Have When They are Infected With Variant Viruses?
People who have been infected with variant viruses have had symptoms similar to the symptoms of regular human seasonal influenza. These include fever, tiredness, lack of appetite and coughing. Some people also have reported runny nose, sore throat, eye irritation, nausea, vomiting and diarrhea.

 

If You Get Sick

  • Flu symptoms usually include fever and respiratory symptoms, such as cough and runny nose, and possibly other symptoms, such as body aches, nausea, or vomiting or diarrhea.
  • If you live in an area where H3N2v or other variant virus infections have been identified recently and develop flu-like illness, contact your health care provider (a doctor, physician’s assistant, nurse practitioner, etc.). Tell them if you have had contact with swine or with other sick people.
  • Whenever you have flu symptoms and are seeing a health care provider, always remember to tell them if you have asthma, diabetes, heart disease, neurological and neurodevelopmental conditions, are pregnant, or are older than 65 or younger than 5 years. These conditions and age factors (and others) put you at high risk of serious complications if you get the flu. Health care providers will determine whether influenza testing and possible treatment are needed.
  • Most of the people who have been infected with H3N2v so far have been children.