Swabs From Infected Pigs Test Positive For H3N2 Flu

Two patients treated at FMH for mild flu symptoms.


Frederick, Md (KM). The results on the nasal swabs taken from 11 pigs at the Great Frederick Fair last weekend have come back. State Veterinarian Dr. Michael Radebaugh says the swab tested positive at a state lab for Influenza-A.   But they were also sent to the National Veterinary Service Laboratory in Ames, Iowa. “Those samples came back as what we call H3N2, a subtype of that Influenza-A virus,” says Dr. Radebaugh.

This type of flu is transmissible from pigs to humans, according to the Maryland Department of Health. “Generally, there’s a low level of transmission. And generally, there isn’t additional spread from humans to humans, although that is possible. That’s why public health wants to respond and recognize this and limit transmission,” says Dr. Lucy Wilson, MD, whose an infectious disease prevention physician,  and the Chief of Surveillance, Infection Prevention and Outbreak Response.

The Health Department says it has identified the influenza virus strain of H3N2 in five Maryland residents who had close contact with pigs at the Great Frederick Fair and the Anne Arundel County Fair.None developed serious illnesses or were hospitalized. In a statement, Frederick Memorial Hospital says it recently treated two individuals with mild flu symptoms who came into the Pediatric Emergency Department. They were discharged for outpatient treatment.

Dr. Radebaugh says the quarantine of 95 pigs at the Great Frederick Fair will continue. “We’ll keep them there till the last pig shows clinical of high fevers and the like. We’ll count seven days from there and release the hold order,” he says. In addition, three Frederick County farms have been placed on a hold order in relation to this outbreak, MDA says.

This strain of swine flu is very similar to the seasonal flu, says Dr. Wilson. They include a fever and a cough, or a fever and a sore throat. “If you think you have the virus, and you have symptoms, such a fever and sore throat, or fever and cough,  contact your physician,” she says. “And depending on your personal medical information, there is treatment available.”

She also says there are people who are at a higher risk for the flu, such as children under five, the elderly, pregnant women, those with chronic heart, lung, liver, kidney and neurologic conditions, or immunosuppression. “If you have certain risk factors or complications form influenza, avoid swine. And if you do have contact with swine or other animals to wash your hands,” says Dr. Wilson.

However, the annual flu vaccination that all of us are urged to get each year will not protect you from H3N2, says Dr. Wilson.

The State Health Department says in order to prevent contacting the flu, stay away from sick people; limit contact with other people if you’re are sick to keep from infecting them; stay home from school or work if you are ill; cover your nose and  mouth with a tissue when coughing or sneezing, and throw away the tissue after using it; wash your hands with soap and water, or an alcohol-based hand rub if soap and water are unavailable; avoid touching your eyes, nose and mouth; and get  the seasonal flu vaccine.

To avoid the spread of influenza from pigs and humans, you should wash your hands frequently with soap and water before and after exposure to pigs; never eat or drink while occupying an area where pigs are present; avoid exposure to pigs and swine barns, especially if sick pigs have been identified, or you are at high risk for getting the flu; watch the pigs for signs of illness, and call a veterinarian; avoid close contact with pigs who appear ill; and avoid contact with pigs experiencing flu-like symptoms.

By Kevin McManus