The Ohio Department of Health (ODH) Friday announced the nation’s first known H3N2v-associated (swine flu) death.

Testing involving a 61-year-old Madison County woman at the Ohio Department of Health Laboratory confirmed that the individual had been infected with the H3N2v influenza virus.

The patient had multiple other underlying medical conditions, but the influenza virus may have contributed to the death.

The deceased woman is known to have had direct contact with swine at the Ross County fair before becoming ill.

According to the federal Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), the main risk factor for infection is direct exposure to swine. CDC points out that the virus does not spread easily from person-to-person, but limited human-to-human infection has occurred.

Swine influenza has not been shown to be transmissible to people through eating properly handled and prepared pork (pig meat) or other products derived from pigs, according to CDC.

“H3N2v, like many other viruses, has the greatest potential to impact those with weakened immune systems,” said Dr. Ted Wymyslo, Director of ODH. “We have been seeing a mild illness in most individuals infected with the H3N2v virus, so there’s no need for alarm. However, it is important for those at-risk individuals to take extra precautions like avoiding swine exhibits to protect themselves.”

Ohio is currently reporting 102 cases of H3N2v statewide. Those with confirmed cases of H3N2v are between the ages of 6 months and 61 years old. Most ill individuals have recovered on their own or were treated and released after a short stay in the hospital.

At this time, surveillance indicates that the individuals most likely became ill with the flu virus after exposure to swine. At-risk individuals (children younger than 5 years old, people 65 years and older, pregnant women, and people with certain chronic conditions such as asthma and other lung diseases, diabetes, heart disease, weakened immune system, and neurologic or neurodevelopmental disorders) should avoid exposure to pigs and swine barns during this fair season.

Those attending fairs should remember:

– Wash your hands frequently with soap and running water before and after exposure to animals;

– Never eat, drink or put things in your mouth in animal areas, and don’t take food or drink into animal areas;

– Leave baby strollers parked outside of areas with pigs;

– Young children, pregnant women, people 65 and older and people with weakened immune systems should be extra careful around animals;

– If you have animals – including swine – watch them for signs of illness and call a veterinarian if you suspect they might be sick;

– Avoid close contact with animals that look or act ill, when possible;

– Avoid contact with swine if you are experiencing flu-like symptoms.

If you are sick:

– If you are at high risk and you get flu symptoms, call a health care provider. Tell them about your risk factor, other medical conditions and your flu symptoms. If you have recently been exposed to swine, tell them about that too.

– If you are not at high risk and you get flu symptoms after exposure to pigs, seek medical care as you normally would.

  • federal microbiologist

    A very good article, dated August 21, 2012, at the website for ‘The Atlantic’ magazine, about swine and poultry CAFOs and their role as reservoirs / incubators for influenza viruses. The article is by Bob Lawrence of the Center for a Livable Future at the Hopkins School of Hygiene and Public Health.
    Needless to say, it’s the last thing that Liz Wagstrom (head veterinarian for the National Pork Producers), Janeen Salak-Johnson (an ‘animal welfare expert’ from the University of Illinois), Candace Croney (an ‘animal welfare expert’ at Purdue University), Jeff Fowle (California rancher and founder of the pro- IFAP advocacy organization Ag Chat Foundation), and (of course !) National Pork Producers president R. C. Hunt want to read.
    Or hear about other people reading it.
    Stand by for more interesting developments in the H3N2 story……..

  • Bert

    What sort of direct contact was the woman having with the pigs at the Ross County Fair? Was she kissing them or what? I mean these are kids’ show pigs so it isn’t like some factory farm setting. Just some pampered pigs vying for blue and red ribbons. Were the pigs sick? Could they win the ribbons if they were sick? Were the kids who showed the pigs also sick? Maybe we should ban pigs? Or county fairs? Or kids? Or direct contact with kids’ pigs at county fairs if we knew what sort of direct contact is the risky kind. More information please! More information could save lives.