2 Montgomery Co. girls contract H3N2v flu virus

Two Montgomery County girls, ages 17 and 4, have been infected with an emerging flu strain contracted from swine.

Bill Wharton, spokesman for Public Health - Dayton & Montgomery County, said both girls had been in contact with pigs, one at the Butler County Fair and one at the Champaign County Fair. The girls are unrelated and live in different parts of the county, Wharton said.

The Ohio Department of Health reports 78 additional cases of H3N2v flu around the state this summer. The ill range from 6 months to 36 years old. Several have been hospitalized, but all have since been treated and released.

Nationally, at least 233 H3N2v cases have been reported, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. No deaths have been reported, and symptoms of the new strain have been fairly mild for both people and pigs.

So far, all of the infections have apparently been contracted from contact with infected pigs, often through agricultural fairs. Health officials say it’s likely the virus will mutate so that it can be spread from person to person. Nationally, a few such cases were believed to have occurred when H3N2v was first reported last year.

The new strain is very prevalent among swine this year, said Erica Pitchford, communications director for the Ohio Department of Agriculture. The fact that the virus contains a gene from the H1N1 strain that caused the 2009-2010 flu pandemic in people might play a role.

Hotter-than-normal summer temperatures might also play a role, Pitchford said. Like people, pigs are stressed by extreme heat, which makes them more vulnerable to contracting flu and other infections. It also makes the virus live longer in their bodies, which means they can spread it to other animals and to people for a longer period of time.

State health and agriculture officials are working with county fair organizers around the state to cut down on the risk of H32N2v infection. They remind fair goers and those handling swine to wash their hands with soap and water before and after handling animals, to avoid eating or drinking while in barns and other animal areas, and to avoid close contact with swine that look or act ill, if possible. People with flu-like symptoms should also avoid contact with swine to avoid infecting them.