ST. PAUL, Minn. (WCCO) — According to the Minnesota Department of Health, three people are believed to have developed a strain of influenza known as variant H1N2 (H1N2v) after exhibiting pigs or spending time in the swine barn at the Minnesota State Fair.
The H1N2v strain is different from the H3N2v strain that has prompted stepped up surveillance and prevention efforts nationwide, after causing 289 reported cases of illness and one death since the beginning of the year.
One of the three cases has been confirmed by CDC. Test results for the other two are pending.
The illness has been confirmed in a teenage girl who was exhibiting pigs at the fair and became ill on Aug. 26. The other two cases occurred in an elementary-school-aged boy who became ill on Aug. 27 after spending all day in the swine barn on Aug. 24, and a woman in her late seventies who became ill on Aug. 26 after spending a prolonged period of time in the swine barn and at the swine show in the Exhibit Hall on Aug 24.
Both the boy and the older woman had underlying health conditions, and were treated with antiviral drugs. The woman was hospitalized, but has now been released. All three patients have recovered or are recovering.
The teenager was tested for influenza after she reported illness to nursing staff at the Fair. The other cases were reported to MDH by health care providers. Health care providers have been asked to report cases of influenza-like illness in people who report that they have had contact with swine. Swine exhibitors have been asked to report it if they experience symptoms of influenza.
Fair officials have also been monitoring swine for possible symptoms of illness, so they can be tested. Two pigs at the swine exhibit were found to be infected with the same H1N2 virus earlier this week, and were both isolated from contact with other pigs. Infection with H1N2 is not considered unusual in pigs.
Jill Resler, the director of education for the Minnesota pork board, said that they’ve had very few flu-related questions this year.
“I think people are getting facts and are still wanting to come and enjoy the swine barn.”
Resler has been in the barn since the fair began and is not concerned. She just stresses that fair-goers wash their hands.
“If it was a big enough issue, they’d shut it down,” she said.
Officials at the Minnesota Department of Health (MDH) say they are not currently aware of any additional human influenza cases caused by H1N2v, and they do not anticipate changing their current public health recommendations regarding human exposure to swine. They emphasized, however, that they will continue to assess the situation and conduct aggressive surveillance for additional influenza cases.
Current recommendations include asking individuals at high risk for severe influenza to avoid swine contact at exhibitions, fairs, live markets and other venues, including the swine barn at the State Fair. High risk individuals include children under 5 years old, pregnant women, people 65 or older and those with chronic medical conditions.