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home : most recent : statewide implications July 19, 2018

7/6/2018 11:12:00 AM
Indiana health officials warn about case of flu from pigs

Mike Grant, Washington Times Herald Staff Writer

The Indiana Board of Health reports a case of flu as a result of a person visiting a swine exhibit at a county fair. The report has led both state and local health officials, the Indiana Board of Animal Health and local fair organizers to take steps to prevent illness for people visiting events where pigs are being exhibited.

Health officials say the case of H3N2 variant influenza is the first reported in Indiana since 2013 and the first human case in the U.S.

H3N2 variant influenza is most commonly associated with contact with pigs. The Indiana resident became ill after being exposed to pigs during a county fair that has since ended. The resident is recovering. The affected county health department has been notified and is collaborating with the Indiana State Department of Health and Indiana Board of Animal Health on the investigation. No additional details about the patient or the fair will be released at this time in order to maintain the patient’s privacy. 

Influenza viruses are not transmitted by eating pork and pork products. According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, more than 400 cases of H3N2 variant influenza have been identified in people nationwide since 2011. More than one-third of those cases have occurred in Indiana.

Health officials say that even though it is rare to have someone contract flu from a pig, with county fairs beginning, extra precautions are being recommended.

“We have had no reports of pig flu in Daviess County reported,” said Daviess County Public Health Nurse Kathy Sullender. “With the 4-H Show ready to start, we are working with the Purdue Extension. The are putting up hand washing stations and signs reminding people to use good hygiene procedures after visiting the animals.”

Officials say the H3N2 virus can be transmitted from people to pigs and from pigs to people. Human infections are most likely to result from exposure to infected pigs in barns or livestock exhibitions.

“Seeing animals is one of the highlights of going to the fair, but it’s important to remember that animals can carry diseases that can make people sick,” said State Health Commissioner Kris Box, MD, FACOG. “Washing your hands after attending animal exhibits and practicing good food hygiene can help prevent illness and ensure that the fair and other events remain a healthy and fun experience.”

State Health officials have made the following recommendations to help avoid the spread of the virus:

  • Avoid eating, drinking, using tobacco or putting anything else in your mouth while in pig barns and show arenas.
  • Avoid taking toys, pacifiers, cups, bottles, strollers or similar items into pig barns and show arenas.
  • Wash hands often with soap and running water before and after attending pig exhibits. If soap and water are not available, use an alcohol-based hand rub.
  • Stay home if you are sick with flu-like illness.

People at high risk for serious complications from the flu should avoid pigs and should not enter swine barns. These populations include children younger than 5, pregnant women, people age 65 and older and people with long-term health conditions such as asthma, diabetes or heart disease, as well as those with weakened immune systems.

People showing pigs at the fair are also being encouraged to keep an eye out for signs their pigs may be ill. Fair exhibitors are encouraged to watch pigs for signs such as loss of appetite, lethargy, fever, cough or runny nose. Exhibitors should minimize the number of people who have contact with ill swine and notify the fair veterinarian or manager that their animal might be ill. People who must come in contact with pigs that are exhibiting signs of illness should wash their hands frequently with soap and water and wear protective clothing, including gloves and masks that cover the mouth and nose.

Local officials say the precautions are to try and make the events fun and still protect the public from any outbreak of disease.

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Editor, John C. DePrez Jr.; Executive Editor, Carol Rogers; Publishers: IBRC and IAR

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