CDC: 158 Cases of New Swine Flu Strain From Pigs

When attending a County or State Fair, many people enjoy viewing the farm animals.  For many people, this is the only time in their lives when they will not only be able to view, but be able to touch these types of animals.  Although it would seem that petting a farm animal would be a rather safe thing to do, that isn’t always true.  The CDC has a word of warning for the American public – do not pet the pigs.

The CDC reported a five-fold increase of cases of a new strain of swine flu that spreads from pigs to humans and, unfortunately, most of these cases are linked to fairs where people are in close contact with infected pigs.  Health officials said the case count jumped from just 29 last week to 158 this week, with the new cases being confirmed in Indiana and Ohio and contributed to contact at fairs. 

Dr. Joseph Bresee of the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), said that “this is not a pandemic situation,” as this flu has mild symptoms and it’s not spreading from person to person.  He did say, however, that this flu like any other flu can be a risk for some people, and people should be cautious when they can.  The recent cases include 113 in Indiana, 30 in Ohio, one in Hawaii and one in Illinois.  The greater majority affected are children, most undoubtedly because they were working closely with raising, displaying and visiting pigs in fairs.

The count of cases is changing rapidly for several reasons.  One being that there are more infected people.  The second reason for the rapidly increasing count is because the CDC no longer must confirm a case in its own lab. Many states are now using CDC testing kits in their own labs to confirm new cases, which speeds up the reporting process.  According to the CDC, the newly reported cases were infected about a week or two ago.  The CDC, which has been tracking this flu since last summer, is concerned  this new flu strain has a gene from the 2009 pandemic strain that might let it spread more easily than pig viruses normally do.

According to the CDC, the good news about this new flu strain is that it does not seem to be unusually dangerous in that most of the illnesses have been mild and no one has died.  Bresee said that two recent cases did require hospitalization, but both individuals recovered and were discharged.  Another positive aspect about this flu is that it appears that all recent cases have spread from pigs to humans and not from humans to humans, which means that it is not very contagious between people.  Bresee stated that it wouldn’t surprise him, however, in the weeks ahead if some cases were spread by person-to-person transmission.

The flu virus among pigs is spread just like it is among people; by coughing, sneezing and runny noses, which is why people can contract it by touching or being near to infected pigs. 

Health officials do not think it will be necessary to cancel all swine shows, but they are urging people to take precautions when they are attending fairs.  Fairgoers need to wash their hands and not take food or drinks into livestock barns, while pregnant women, young children, the elderly and people with weakened immune systems should take particular caution around swine.