First swine flu death in U.S. is in Madison Co.
By Jane Beathard
A 61-year-old London woman who died last weekend is the nation’s first known fatality related to the H3N2v virus, a relatively new variation of the so-called “swine flu,” according to the Ohio Department of Health (ODH).
Testing at the state public health laboratory confirmed the woman was infected with the H3N2v virus, although she suffered from other underlying medical conditions. The strain was first identified in pigs in 2010 and in humans in 2011.
“Like many other viruses, H3N2v has the greatest potential to impact those with weakened immune systems,” said Dr. Ted Wymyslo, Ohio Director of Health. “We have been seeing mild illness in most individuals infected with the virus, so there’s no need for alarm.”
The woman apparently caught the virus while attending the Ross County Fair, held Aug. 4-11.
“She had direct contact with swine at the …fair before becoming ill,” an ODH press release said.
According to the national Centers for Disease Control & Prevention (CDC), the main risk factor for H3N2v is direct exposure to swine. Person-to-person transmission of the virus has occurred, but is rare.
“We’re saddened to hear about the death of one person in Ohio associated with the current H3N2v outbreaks,” says CDC’s Dr. Lyn Finelli. “Like with seasonal flu, we have been – and continue to be – particularly concerned about people with factors that put them at high risk of serious complications if they get the flu. These people should absolutely not have contact with pigs or visit pig arenas at fairs this summer.”
Although the disease was first identified in humans last year, numbers exploded two months ago, apparently in correlation with the county fair season. Since July, the CDC has recorded 288 cases in 10 states.
Individuals most likely to become ill are children younger than 5, those age 65 or older, pregnant women and people with chronic conditions such as asthma, diabetes, heart disease, weakened immune systems and neurological disorders. The CDC urges those at risk to avoid exposure to pigs and pig barns during the fair season.
Ohio is currently reporting 102 human cases of H3N2v in 25 of the 88 counties. Butler County reports the most— 17. Fifteen are in Champaign County. Ross County is reporting seven.
Most ill individuals have recovered on their own or were treated and released after a short hospital stay, the release said.
Ohio’s peak flu season is October to April, although cases are reported year round. The summer fair season brings increased incidents of “swine flu” infections as people interact with animals on exhibit.
On Aug. 13, the Ohio Department of Agriculture (OdA) distributed flu testing kits of veterinarians at each upcoming fair to help identify H3N2v cases among sick swine. Earlier in the month, ODA also distributed information to exhibitors and fair boards about the importance of good hygiene in preventing the spread of viruses such as H3N2v.