SACRAMENTO — The California Department of Public Health (CDPH), in collaboration with the County of San Luis Obispo Public Health Department and the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, has confirmed variant influenza A (H1N2v) infections in two persons. The individuals were exposed to a pig at the California Mid-State Fair in Paso Robles, California that was infected with influenza. The individuals have recovered after experiencing brief illnesses.
Influenza viruses that are spread among pigs are occasionally transmitted to people who have close contact with pigs. When this happens, the infections in humans are called variant influenza virus infections. Variant influenza virus infections are usually mild, with symptoms similar to those of seasonal influenza. However, like seasonal influenza, serious illness is possible. Person-to-person transmission of variant influenza viruses is not common, and people cannot get it by eating pork.
In recent years, variant influenza virus infections have occurred each summer in the United States, and most infections have been linked to exposure to pigs at agricultural events. With the county fair season still in full swing in California, these cases of variant influenza virus infections serve as a reminder to take steps to prevent illness when visiting events where pigs and other animals are on exhibit.
“Visiting animals can be one of the highlights of the fair,” said Dr. Karen Smith, CDPH Director and State Public Health Officer. “It is important to remember to practice good hygiene when working with or visiting animals.”
There are steps you can take to protect you and your family at the fair, zoo, petting zoo or other settings where pigs are present.
- Wash your hands with soap and running water after any exposure to animals.
- Don’t eat, drink, or put anything in your mouth while in an area where animals are housed or exhibited.
- Avoid touching your eyes, nose or mouth until you have exited the animal area and washed your hands with soap and running water.
- Don’t take toys, pacifiers, cups, baby bottles, strollers or similar items into animal areas.
- Avoid contact with animals that look or act ill.
- People in high-risk groups should take extra care around animals. These include senior citizens, children under five, pregnant women, and people with a weakened immune system or chronic health conditions.
Persons who have influenza symptoms after recent contact with pigs should tell their healthcare provider about their exposure. Symptoms of influenza include fever, cough, sore throat, muscle or body aches, headaches, fatigue, and may also include vomiting or diarrhea. People at greater risk of serious influenza-related complications (children under five, adults 65 and over, pregnant women, persons with a weakened immune system or certain chronic medical conditions) should contact their healthcare provider as soon as possible. The same medications used to treat people with seasonal influenza can also be used for variant influenza virus infections.
If variant influenza is suspected in a patient, healthcare providers should contact their local health department to coordinate appropriate testing. For local health department contact information, visit CDPH’s website.
For more information about variant influenza viruses, visit the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention website.