A Centers for Diseases Control and Prevention (CDC) report released yesterday says 18 people in Michigan and Ohio fell ill after an outbreak of Influenza A(H3N2) Variant Virus that had not seen previously in people. Health officials linked the infections to swine exhibits at agricultural fairs. All 18 people have since recovered.
Dr. Gregory Poland, director of Mayo Clinic's Vaccine Research Group says, “Influenza A(H3N2) variant virus has unique attributes genetically and, in this case, a recombinant swine gene and mutation that has not previously been known to infect a human. We have always had these variant viruses. What has changed is that a robust surveillance system is now in place. This report by the CDC shows the system works."
Dr. Poland stresses there is no reason the general population should worry even though it raises some concerns. “We humans put our hands on our eyes, nose and mouth a few times a minute,” says Dr. Poland. “We take kids to farms and agricultural fairs, where they are in contact with swine. They are eating and drinking at the same time, and it is no surprise that children and adults become infected.”
The bottom line, Dr. Poland says, “We should not be eating and drinking when we are exposed to swine and water fowl which carry variant viruses, and should always practice good hand hygiene while limiting contact with swine."
The best defense against contracting a flu virus, says Dr. Poland, is practicing good hand hygiene and getting an annual influenza vaccine. Good hand hygiene consists of using warm, soapy water and washing your hands before you eat or touch your face or someone's face. Dr. Poland urges everyone 6 months and older to get his or her annual influenza vaccine.