Swine flu case serves as reminder of precautions

Health officials say a strain of swine flu is responsible for an illness that sickened a child who recently attended the Berrien County Youth Fair in southwestern Lower Michigan.

According to the Michigan Department of Community Health, it is the first case of H3N2 variant flu virus this year in Michigan.

The agency says the child, who wasn’t hospitalized, was a swine exhibitor at the fair.

A sick pig from the fair tested positive for Influenza A H3N2 at the National Veterinary Services Laboratories in Ames, Iowa, officials said.

“Influenza is common to swine and is not a food safety concern,” said Dr. James Averill, Michigan’s state veterinarian. “Berrien County Youth Fair had hand washing stations, posters, and good biosecurity practices in place, and it’s important that all fairs continue these practices.”

Symptoms of H3N2v infection in people are similar to those of seasonal flu viruses and can include fever and respiratory symptoms, such as cough and runny nose, and possibly other symptoms, such as body aches, nausea, vomiting, or diarrhea. Infections with influenza viruses (including variant viruses like H3N2v) can sometimes cause severe disease, even in healthy people.

The incubation period (the time it takes from exposure to illness) for this influenza, like the usual seasonal influenza, is one to seven days; and most commonly two days. Early treatment works best and may be especially important for people with a high risk condition. Currently there is no vaccine for H3N2v and the seasonal flu vaccine will not protect against H3N2v.

There were six H3N2v cases reported in Michigan in 2012 and 20 in Wisconsin, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.

“While Michigan did see a handful of H3N2v cases in 2012, this first case for 2013 should serve as an important reminder of the simple steps that can be taken to protect our health as we would with any flu season,” said Dr. Matthew Davis, chief medical executive with the Michigan Department of Community Health.

“Washing your hands, covering your nose and mouth when you sneeze or cough, and staying home when you feel sick are some of the best ways to protect yourself and others from becoming ill. This serves as a good reminder for Michigan residents that everyone six months and older should get a seasonal flu vaccine each year.”

Below are some steps that you can take to protect yourself and prevent the spread of any illness:

– Avoid close contact with sick people.

– Cover your nose and mouth with a tissue when you cough or sneeze. Throw the tissue in the trash after you use it.

– Wash your hands often with soap and water. If soap and water are not available, use an alcohol-based hand rub.

– Do not eat or drink in livestock barns or show rings.

– Avoid touching your eyes, nose and mouth. Germs spread this way.

– If you are sick, stay home from work or school until your illness is over.

– Avoid contact with pigs if you have flu-like symptoms. Wait seven days after your illness started or until you have been without fever for 24 hours without the use of fever-reducing medications, whichever is longer. If you must have contact with pigs while you are sick, take the protective actions listed above.

– Get an annual influenza vaccination.

It’s not necessary to avoid fairs where swine are present, but you should take the steps listed above to protect yourself against H3N2v. The CDC also recommends that anyone who is at high risk of serious flu complications should avoid pigs and swine barns.

For more information about H3N2v, visit www.cdc.gov/flu/swineflu/h3n2v-basics.htm.