MINNEAPOLIS - Minnesota has recorded its first confirmed case and a second probable case of a new influenza strain that people acquire through contact with pigs, according to the Minnesota Department of Health.
The two swine flu cases were reported in a pre-school-age child and an older sibling from a family living in the Twin Cities metro area, officials said.
Both children developed symptoms of the illness two days after the family visited a live animal market in Dakota County on Aug. 10.
Officials say both of the children are recovering and did not require hospitalization.
They said that while only the younger child tested positive for new flu strain, the older child is considered a probable case because of the child's history of flu-like illness and the family connection.
People usually get the new strain of flu - known as H3N2v - from pigs rather than other people. A few cases have been reported where an individual got the illness from another person, but there was no further spread of the illness to additional people, officials said.
In addition to the Minnesota case, more than 200 cases of the illness have been reported in eight states since the beginning of the year.
MDH officials emphasized that H3N2v does not pose any food safety risk and that there is no evidence that you can get it by eating pork. The illness also tends to be relatively mild - similar in severity to recent strains of regular, seasonal flu. Hospitalization rates for H3N2v have been relatively low, officials said.
Health officials stressed that there is no reason to discourage people from patronizing live animal markets or visiting the upcoming State Fair, local county fairs or other venues where pigs may be present.
MDH has been working with the Minnesota Board of Animal Health and the Minnesota State Fair to address possible concerns about H3N2v, and take steps to prevent the spread of the illness.
MDH has joined fair officials in discouraging fairgoers or exhibitors from eating, drinking or placing anything in their mouths while in animal exhibit areas, and emphasizing the importance of washing their hands with soap and running water after any exposure to animals.
"If you have really, really young children you have to be careful about the hand washing," said State Public Health Veterinarian Joni Scheftel.
She is telling people to avoid brining in strollers, pacifiers and baby bottles, as well.
People who are running a fever or have other flu symptoms are being advised to avoid contact with pigs, since H3N2v can be passed from humans to pigs, as well as from pigs to humans.
Exhibitors and others who can't avoid contact with pigs are being encouraged to take additional protective measures if they develop possible flu symptoms. Those measures include wearing protective clothing, gloves and a mask that covers the nose and mouth.
Health officials do suggest taking a prudent approach if you are at high risk for complications of the flu.
People at high risk for flu complications include:
- Children under five and people age 65 and older.
- Pregnant women.
- People with underlying health conditions like asthma, diabetes, heart disease or neurological problems.
Minnesota State Fair General Manager Jerry Hammer says on-site veterinarians will be watching the pigs closer this year because of the cases of H3N2v. He also says every animal is inspected before being allowed on the grounds.
"There is not an animal brought on the grounds without a certification of health," said Hammer.
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