Swine flu monitored

Although no cases of a flu virus being spread after exposure to sick hogs have been reported in Auglaize County, health officials continue surveillance.

“We became aware of cases from the Butler County Fair right at the end of July, beginning of August, when our fair was just starting,” Auglaize County Health Commissioner Charlotte Parsons told the Wapakoneta Daily News on Tuesday.

She said random samples of swine were taken here by the Ohio Department of Agriculture and a fair veterinarian and all came up negative.

“We had no sick swine at the fair and no reports of humans ill either,” Parsons said.

Because fair season continues across the state,

Parsons said special proactive efforts are being made.

“No one wants going to the fair to be unsafe,” she said.

“People immediately react when they hear people are getting sick from animals, but this requires close contact with sick pigs,” Parsons said.

With flu testing kits distributed to vets at each upcoming fair to help identify cases of the variation of Influenza type A — H3N2v — Parsons said any swine found to be infected would be taken out of the fair immediately.

Fifty-four cases of  H3N2v, a new strain of swine flu that spreads from hogs to people, have been confirmed statewide, according to a release Tuesday from the Ohio Department of Health.

“People and hogs can pass it back and forth to each other,” Parsons said, adding that it is unknown how the initial case started.

Across Ohio, however, there have been only three cases of human-to-human transmission, she said.

Even to get the virus from hogs, Parsons said contact would have to be pretty close with those infected bathing, feeding or taking care of the animals.

“You’re not going to get it just walking through a barn,” Parsons said.

The CDC has been tracking cases of this flu strain since last summer and a concern is that it has a gene from the 2009 pandemic strain that might let it spread more easily than hog viruses usually do. Many of the cases have been linked to fairs, where visitors are in close contact with infected swine.

Parsons said the flu carries mild symptoms and typically runs its course in a few days. It’s spread by hogs in the same way it is by humans — sneezing, coughing and runny noses.

The Ohio Department of Agriculture has reassured residents that fair attendance is safe, but those going should wash their hands frequently with soap and running water before and after exposure to animals; never eat, drink or put things in their mouths in animal areas or take food or drink into animals areas; avoid close contact with animals that look or act ill; and those experiencing flu-like symptoms should avoid contact with swine. Young children, pregnant women, and those 65 and older or with weakened immune systems should be extra careful around animals. Those with animals — including swine — should watch them for signs of illness and call a vet if they are suspected of being sick.

Cases of the flu in Ohio have been confirmed in 6-month through 36-year-olds, with five requiring hospitalization, but they have since been treated and released.

“At this time, surveillance indicates that the individuals most likely became ill with the flu virus after exposure to swine,” according to the Ohio Department of Health.

Cases have been confirmed in Clark, Franklin, Greene, Hamilton, Medina, Monroe, Morrow, Ross and Warren counties, with the largest numbers in Butler, which had 17 confirmed cases as of Tuesday, Gallia with 11 cases, and Champaign, with eight cases.

“We keep up with surveillance going on every day throughout the state and country,” Parsons said. “Whenever there is a new virus or a change, a mutation, we let physicians in the area know, so they know to look for it.”

She said symptoms are the same as other flu strains, but because of the time of year, they aren’t seen often, so may be more easily recognized. Infected hogs would have the same type of symptoms as humans.