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July 26, 2013

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STATE HEALTH DEPARTMENT SUGGESTS SAFETY TIPS FOR FAIR SEASON

(Richmond, Va.) The Virginia Department of Health (VDH) reminds those attending agricultural fairs this summer and fall to take precautions when coming in contact with swine. An influenza virus that normally circulates in pigs, called influenza A H3N2v, may spread to humans more easily than usual. This H3N2v virus was circulating in pigs in 2010 and was first detected in people in 2011.  

“We encourage people to enjoy the many agricultural fairs around the Commonwealth,” said State Health Commissioner Cynthia C. Romero, MD, FAAFP. “However, it is important that they take certain precautions to protect their health while having a good time.”

In 2012, a multi-state outbreak of H3N2v resulted in 309 cases nationwide; there were no cases in Virginia. Since June of this year, Indiana has reported 12 cases of H3N2v infection. Similar to the cases identified in 2012, the majority of infections are associated with exposure to pigs, with many exposures occurring at agricultural fairs. An additional case of H3N2v infection has been confirmed in a non-Virginia resident who had close and prolonged contact with pigs at a fair in the northwest region of the state.
                       
Unlike regular flu, H3N2v is not commonly transmitted from human-to-human. People will not get the virus from eating pork.

“Most people who get sick experience mild flu-like symptoms similar to seasonal flu infection; however, serious complications can occur in people who have underlying medical conditions,” said Dr. Romero. To help reduce the spread of the H3N2v virus and provide early treatment, VDH has asked clinicians statewide to be on the lookout for signs and symptoms of influenza in their patients and to ask about any exposure to swine in the previous seven days.

The following guidelines can help reduce the spread of influenza viruses between pigs and people:

  • Some people are at higher risk for serious illness if they develop influenza, and should consider avoiding exposure to pigs and swine barns this fair season, especially if sick pigs have been identified. People at increased risk include children younger than 5 years old, 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).
  • Wash your hands with soap and running water before and after exposure to pigs. If soap and water are not available, use an alcohol-based hand rub. 
  • Never eat, drink or put things in your mouth in pig areas, and don’t take food or drink into pig areas. Avoid close contact with animals that look or act ill.
  • Never take toys, pacifiers, spill-proof cups, baby bottles, strollers or similar items into pig areas.
  • Always cover coughs and sneezes, and wash your hands often.
  • Avoid contact with pigs if you are experiencing flu-like symptoms. Avoid contact for 7 days after symptoms begin or until you have been fever-free for 24 hours without the use of fever-reducing medications, whichever is longer.
  • Avoid close contact with pigs that look or act ill.
  • If you must be near pigs that are known or suspected to be infected with influenza viruses, wear protective clothing, gloves and masks that cover your mouth and nose.
  • If you develop a flu-like illness after exposure to pigs, see your doctor. Tell the doctor that you have had recent exposure to pigs.

For more information visit www.vdh.virginia.gov


Last Updated: 07-26-2013

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