CDC briefs on the increase of H3N2 variant virus infections
Influenza and veterinary medicine experts from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) gave a briefing Friday on the recent increase of a flu virus people are contracting from pigs, H3N2 variant virus.
The number of cases was illustrated in the most recent CDC Influenza Surveillance report,FluView earlier in the week.
In the briefing, CDC Medical Epidemiologist, Dr. Joseph Bresee discussed the current data saying there have been 16 new cases confirmed in the past three weeks bringing the total to 29 since this time last year.
Included in the 16 recent cases are 12 cases reported during 2011-2012 Influenza Season Week 30 ending July 28, 2012. The 12 cases were reported from 3 states, (Hawaii , Indiana , and Ohio ).
Why the sudden spike in human cases? Dr. Bresee suggests the matrix or M gene from the influenza A H1 pandemic virus may confirm increased transmissibility to and among humans compared with other variant influenza viruses.
All 29 cases were infected with H3N2v viruses that contained the M gene.
Bresee also clarified that swine influenza viruses are not a food borne disease and cannot be transmitted that way. He went on to say that the viruses are sometimes passed between the species by close contact.
Related article: Hawaii confirms H3N2 variant in Maui resident
He noted that of the 16 recent cases, 15 had contact with pigs while attending or exhibiting swine at agricultural fairs. None of the cases was the result of person-to-person transmission.
In general, the message is to take actions to prevent contracting the virus when dealing with swine. These include handwashing before and after exposure to pigs, not taking food or drinks into areas where there are animals and if you have some underlying medical condition that puts you at high risk for serious complications from influenza such as lung disease or diabetes, abstain from being around pigs at all.
If you get sick with flu symptoms, Bresee says to tell your doctor about exposure to pigs. He states that medications that have been effective in treating and preventing seasonal influenza infections are also likely to be effective in treating these variant virus infections.
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