Health dept. finds swine flu in 7 people
Detected at Charles Co. Fair; no pigs will be allowed at Calvert fair
The Maryland Department of Health determined seven people have contracted the influenza virus strain H3N2v (variant flu) after contact with swine at the Charles County Fair this past weekend, but none of the
illnesses are considered serious and not one of the victims have been hospitalized, according to a press release provided by the Charles County Department of Health.
Health department officials discovered five cases of influenza among swine displayed at the fair and the Department of Agriculture ordered all pigs to be quarantined until a week after the last one shows symptoms of the illness, detailed a separate press release from the Charles County organization.
The Maryland Department of Health, Maryland Department of Agriculture and the health departments of Charles County and St. Mary’s County investigated the presence of Influenza A, better known as swine flu, in the animals.
Swine flu does not typically affect people, and historically there is limited human-to-human transmission from this particular strain of the virus.
Swine exhibits at the St. Mary’s County and Calvert County fairs have been canceled.
“What has been decided out of this point out of precaution ... the State Department of Agriculture in consultation with the State Department of Health have decided it’s best to hold off on exhibiting pigs in the two remaining county fairs,” said Dr. Laurence Polsky, Calvert health officer.
In Calvert, this not only includes pigs in the exhibit barns but also pigs in any entertainment acts such as pig races, Polsky added.
Maryland State Veterinarian Mike Radebaugh explained Charles County fair staff was not at fault regarding the outbreak and followed the necessary procedures in the situation.
“I don’t think they could have done anything differently,” he said. “They were at the gates checking [the animals], we were at the gates checking them. They called us right away, according to our protocols and their protocols. It happens.”
The swine facility is in the process of being disinfected. Radebaugh said 42 of the 149 pigs were slaughtered and the rest received medical treatment. All signs point to swine exhibits returning to the fair in 2018.
“We were able to quickly get a diagnosis on Monday,” Radebaugh said. “My understanding from the veterinarians I talked to is that the animals are responding to care. ... I don’t see any problem as far as being able to open up next year.”
There have been 20 cases of swine flu among humans in the United States this year, 18 of which were the virus strain H3N2v. Illnesses related to these instances have been mostly mild with symptoms similar to those of seasonal flu. In 2012, 13 individuals developed influenza after direct contact with sick pigs at the Queen Anne’s County Fair.
Polsky explained those most likely to be affected would be persons in direct contact with the animals, not passersby at the fair. This strain can be transmitted from pigs to humans, but does not transmit between humans. Like the seasonal flu, it could be more complex for young children and the elderly, Polsky said.
The symptoms of this particular flu are similar to other forms of the virus and often include fever, cough and sore throat. Anyone with flu-like symptoms should contact their health care providers, as prescription antiviral drugs can treat the infections in humans, and be sure to mention any contact with pigs in the last week.
The Charles County Health Department can be reached at 301-609-6900, ext. 6025, the St. Mary’s County Health Department can be reached at 301-475-4330 and the Calvert County Health Department can be reached at 410-5355400.
Tyson Hayes, then 1, of St. Leonard gets a closer look at the pigs with his grandfather, Michael Green, also of St. Leonard, during the 2015 Calvert County Fair.