The Ohio Department of Health announced on Friday that the country’s first known swine flu death took place in their state. A 61-year-old Madison county women was infected with the H3N2v virus and died. She had had direct contact with swine at the Ross County fair and had “multiple other underlying medical conditions” according to the statement.
There are currently 102 cases of the H3N2v virus in Ohio. The age range of patients is between 6 months and 61 years. Most of the patients had only a mild illness, and there have been few hospitalizations in this outbreak.
David Daniels, director of the Ohio Department of Agriculture, said, “swine flu is not uncommon, especially when temperatures have been high, as they have been this summer.” Dr. Tony Forshey, state veterinarian at the Ohio Department of Agriculture said “there are veterinarians in the barn at every fair. Heat-stressed swine are more likely to become ill and contagious.”
This type of flu is only transmissible through contact with live pigs. You cannot get the flu through properly handled and cooked pork. This virus is different from seasonal influenza, but it is transmitted in the same way: through coughing and sneezing by people who are infected. Most of the patients this year have been children.
To protect yourself, wash your hands with soap and water, especially after you’ve been around animals at the fair. Avoid touching eyes, nose, and mouth. Do not drink or eat near animals, and do not bring food into the barns when you visit a fair. And limit time around animals. Young children, pregnant women, the elderly, and those with weakened immune systems should avoid exposure to pigs and swine barns.
If you develop a flu-like illness, with symptoms including fever, tiredness, lack of appetite, coughing, runny nose, sore throat, nausea, vomiting, and diarrhea, see your healthcare provider. And make sure to tell her that you have been in contact with swine or other people who are sick. For questions or help, call the Ohio Department of Agirculture’s Division of Animal Health at 614-728-6220.