Georgia Officials Urge Safety With Variant Swine Flu Virus

By: Georgia Department of Agriculture Release; Greg Gullberg Email
By: Georgia Department of Agriculture Release; Greg Gullberg Email

Valdosta, Georgia- August 22, 2012

More than 200 people in nine states have been diagnosed with Swine Flu this year, but it is not the H1N1 strain that caused a deadly pandemic in 2009.

This is a new strain of swine flu called H3N2. So far, there have not been any cases reported in Florida or Georgia, but officials say it is a threat to anyone in contact with pigs.

"It spreads through the cough or sneeze of a pig," said Courtney Sheeley, Public Information Officer for Georgia's South Health District. "So people who are in these areas where there are a lot of pigs, they are at risk of getting this type of Flu directly from a pig."

Sheeley says H3N2 is rarely spread from person to person. Most people have gotten sick after being exposed to sick pigs at fairs in the Midwest, so there is no reason to avoid state fairs or agricultural events. And you do not have to alter your diet.

"It's safe to eat pork. This is a respiratory illness. So it's not something you consume," said Sheeley.

It is important to know the symptoms of this new strain of Swine Flu are relatively mild compared to that of H1N1. Still officials are developing a vaccine to guard against the H3N2 virus.

The Georgia Department of Agriculture says anyone who is around pigs for any reason should remember to wash their hands before and after having contact with the animals.

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August 21, 2012

The Georgia Department of Agriculture and the Georgia Department of Public Health encourage the public to exercise proactive safety measures while attending state fairs and agricultural events this fall due to confirmed human infections with H3N2v – a flu virus normally found in swine (pigs). Most cases in the United States so far have been identified as swine to human transmission.

Department of Agriculture Commissioner Gary W. Black urges hand washing after being in the presence of, or touching, swine.

“There is no reason to stay away from fairs,” Commissioner Black said. “Our state’s fairs and agricultural expositions play a major role in Georgia and this year we need to ensure we’re staying safe.”

“Georgia has not had a confirmed human case of H3N2v, and I’d like to keep it that way,” said Brenda Fitzgerald, M.D., commissioner of the Georgia Department of Public Health. “There are simple measures – like hand washing – everyone can take to stay safe.”

On Aug. 17, the CDC announced that 225 cases of H3N2v infection had been reported in the United States during 2012. Cases have been reported in Hawaii, Indiana, Michigan, Pennsylvania, West Virginia, Wisconsin, Ohio, and Illinois. There have been no deaths as a result of H3N2v. Most infections have occurred in children and have been mild with very few hospitalizations. It is recommended that anyone experiencing flu symptoms after exposure to swine call their health care provider. Certain people including young children, elderly persons, pregnant women, and people with long term medical conditions are at greater risk than others. Common sense prevention methods should be observed including washing hands, covering your mouth when you sneeze or cough, and staying at home when you are feeling ill to protect others.

This is not a food safety issue, and influenza is not spread through eating pork and pork products.

“While the risk is minimal, we want young people participating in youth livestock projects this fall to be mindful and remember the ‘common-sense’ training they have received from their 4-H & FFA advisors,” says Commissioner Black.

All animals at a state fair are required to have a current certificate of veterinary inspection (CVI) by a licensed and accredited veterinarian. At the Georgia State Fair and at all Junior National Shows, Georgia Agricultural Veterinarians are on-site to ensure the health of all animals presented.

There are steps that can be taken to prevent the spread of influenza between people and pigs:

• Wash your hands frequently with soap and running water before and after exposure to animals.

• Never eat, drink, or put things in your mouth while in animal areas, and don’t take food or drink into animal areas.

• Children younger than 5, people 65 and older, pregnant women, and people with certain chronic medical conditions (such as, asthma, diabetes, heart disease, weakened immune systems, and neurological or neurodevelopmental conditions) are at high risk for serious complications if they get influenza. People with these risk factors should consider avoiding exposure to pigs and swine barns this summer, especially if sick pigs have been identified.

• 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 pigs if you are experiencing flu like symptoms.

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For more information about the investigation and H3N2v, please visit the CDC’s website at http://www.cdc.gov/flu/swineflu/influenza-variant-viruses-h3n2v.htm


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