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At least 154 cases of a new strain of swine flu were detected across several states. The number of victims had been 29 one week ago, but the five time increase has officials concerned about another mass outbreak.
The original strain of swine flu, H1N1, killed at least 17,000 people between 2009 and 2010. This was highly contagious and moved so fast that countries only reported the number of deaths and clusters of unusual outbreaks.
This new strain, H3N2v, a variant of the H3N2 common influenza, so far has only effected people in direct contact with pigs. The states that are most affected also come in most contact with traveling fairs, complete with petting zoos and shows; people that work around pigs on a regular basis are high at risk. Indiana reports at least 113 cases, Ohio 30 cases, and one case each in Hawaii and Illinois.
Dr. Joseph Bresee of the Center for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) believes that “This is not a pandemic situation.” The CDC states that the disease must transfer easily between humans before it is considered a pandemic. However, they told ABC News that they are also concerned that “the new strain has a gene from the 2009 pandemic strain that might let it spread more easily than pig viruses normally do.” H3N2v could become another worldwide problem.
Bresee admits that the number of cases is expected to continue to rise, and a few human-human transmissions wouldn’t surprise anyone.
The good news is the cases are mild compared to other virulent flus, and no one has died so far. The two cases that resulted in hospitalization both fully recovered and were discharged.
The flu vaccine from this year doesn’t cover the new strain, so all are urged to be careful and take precautions by careful hand washing and avoiding eating and drinking around infected humans and animals. The CDC suggests seeking medical care for suspected infection.
While adults may have antibodies for H3N2v from similar flus in the 1990′s, parents should take extra care into account for children, who are the most affected so far. The CDC also warns those over 65, pregnant women and individuals with chronic diseases not to attend traveling fairs this year.
Fair officials are keeping an eye out for any pigs that exhibit flu symptoms. These include a runny nose, coughing and sneezing. In the meantime, Bresee is working on finding a vaccine for the virus in the chance it becomes a pandemic.