The term “swine flu” was misapplied a few years ago to a virus that affected humans. This year, the name is accurate. There are dozens of cases where flu has passed from pigs to people.
Deb Scholten, director of the Northeast Nebraska Public Health Department in Wayne, says the number of cases has tripled since July.
“Normally, those viruses don’t jump easily to humans,” Scholten says. “This hasn’t been a huge problem in the past and then all of the sudden this year, we have 276 cases in ten states.”
In recent years, the flu strain called H1N1 emerged, but Scholten says this latest version of swine flu is a variant of a virus that’s been circulating for some time.
“It’s H3N2 which is a fairly common virus that we see circulating but it has a ‘v’ in the back of that formula for variant, so it’s a different swine flu virus than we’ve seen before,” Scholten says. “There is no immunity to it.” And there’s no vaccine, either.
While cases are reported in ten states, most of them are in Indiana and Ohio with none in Nebraska. Most cases are reported in people who attended fairs or who work in the hog industry.
Scholten says any virus that jumps from animals to humans is a major concern for public health officials.
“The viruses mutate easily and that’s when we start running into serious problems sometimes,” she says. “As much as we can track those and get on top of the situation, it’s important, because we don’t want those viruses and infectious diseases emerging that we can’t handle.”
Symptoms are similar to the seasonal flu and may include: fever, cough, sore throat, runny nose, muscle aches, headache and fatigue.
By Jerry Oster, WNAX, Yankton