Upcoming flu season may be a busy one

Baton Rouge, La. - State health officials say the upcoming flu season could be a busy one.  In addition to the usual cases of flu,  authorities are monitoring reports of a swine influenza virus H3N2v that is being linked to county fairs in other states. These illnesses have been associated  with swine exhibitors and people closely linked to swine at the fairs.

From July 12 to August 9, the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) is reporting a total of 153 humans infected with H3N2v which is a variant of the respiratory disease caused by Type A influenza viruses. One (1) case of the virus has been detected in Hawaii, one (1) in Illinois, 120 cases in Indiana and 31 in Ohio. All cases are associated with exposure at county fairs, with the exception of the case in Hawaii which involved a person in contact with pigs on her family's farm.

LDAF Commissioner Mike Strain said, "While rare, pig influenza can spread from pigs to people and vise versa. That's why this increase in cases is of concern. With the fall livestock exhibits at festivals and fairs coming up here in Louisiana, we urge anyone dealing with pigs to take precautionary measures to ensure their safety."

"All of these affected people had contact with pigs. We urge everyone to use precautionary measures such as washing your hands frequently if you are in contact with pigs and informing your doctor if you have influenza-like symptoms. The fortunate thing is that no one has died from this virus," said Dr. Frank Welch, medical director for the immunization program with the Department of Health and Hospitals.

Symptoms typical of the flu include runny nose, sore throat, eye irritation, nausea, vomiting and diarrhea. A seasonal flu vaccine will not protect people against H3N2v, but there are influenza antiviral drugs that can treat human H3N2v illness as well as infection with seasonal influenza viruses.