The Ohio Department of Health (ODH) has announced the first known H3N2v-associated death. The 61-year-old female Madison County resident passed away earlier this week. Testing 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 individual had direct contact with swine at the Ross County Fair before becoming ill. According to the 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.
“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.
There are 15 cases in Champaign County and 1 case in Union County.
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.