INDIANAPOLIS—The Indiana State Department of Health (ISDH) and Indiana Board of Animal Health (BOAH) are urging Hoosiers to take steps to prevent illness while visiting events where pigs are exhibited following confirmation of a case of influenza in a resident with exposure to pigs.
This is the first human case of H3N2 variant influenza reported in Indiana since 2013 and the first human case in the U.S. this year, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), which confirmed the test results Friday.
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 ISDH and BOAH 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 can be directly transmitted from pigs to people and from people to pigs. Human infections are most likely to occur when people are in close proximity to infected pigs, such as in barns and livestock exhibits at fairs. Influenza viruses are not transmitted by eating pork and pork products. According to the CDC, 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.
“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.”
Hoosiers can protect themselves by taking the following steps:
• 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.
Fair exhibitors are encouraged to watch pigs for signs of illness, 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. Additional guidance for exhibitors can be found on the CDC website at https://www.cdc.gov/flu/pdf/swineflu/fair_exhibitor_factsheet.pdf.
Anyone with recent exposure to pigs who experiences symptoms that include fever, cough, sore throat, body aches, fatigue, headaches and sometimes vomiting or diarrhea should contact a healthcare provider promptly. Influenza antiviral drugs can treat H3N2v as well as seasonal flu illness in people.
For more information about H3N2v, visit the CDC website at https://www.cdc.gov/flu/swineflu/h3n2v-cases.htm.