Tonawanda News — The Erie County Health Department is warning residents about a new form of swine flu recently confirmed in three U.S. states by the Centers for Disease Control.
Though no cases of what’s called H3N2v have been reported in this area, the CDC has confirmed 29 cases of the new swine flu variant elsewhere in the past year, and a recent uptick in cases includes 16 in the last three weeks.
While none of the cases have been reported in New York state, Erie County Health Commissioner Dr. Gale Burstein said people with compromised immune systems due to chronic illness or age should avoid farm animals including pigs currently featured at venues such as the Erie County Fair.
“It’s important for people to remember to take precautions when they are around livestock, including washing hands before and after being around animals,” Burstein said. “It’s a good opportunity for kids to see animals, just wash your hands and use common sense because any animal can carry disease.”
Viruses have been identified in 3 states in recent weeks. According to a statement from CDC, from July 12 through Aug. 3, 2012, 16 cases of H3N2v were reported and confirmed.
The virus was first detected in humans in July 2011 and has been isolated to swine in many U.S. states. All 29 cases were infected with H3N2v viruses that contain the matrix (M) gene from the influenza A (H1N1) pdm09 virus.
The virus differs from the H1N1 swine flu that swept the nation several years ago, but is similar because it originates in pigs and circulates during the summer months, Burstein said.
“Typically we see flu during flu season in the winter months, but this is in the summer months,” Burstein said. “People who are at high risk for influenza complications should consider avoiding exposure to pigs and swine barns this summer.”
She said those at risk include people with underlying chronic medical conditions such as asthma, diabetes, heart disease or who are pregnant. Those 65 or older, as well as the very young should also take care to wash their hands frequently with soap and water.
CDC said public health and agriculture officials are investigating the extent of disease among humans and swine, and additional cases are likely to be identified as the investigation continues.Contact city editor Neale Gulley at 693-1000, ext. 4114