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FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE
Sept. 11, 2012

DHEC supports efforts to prevent flu transmission during fair season

COLUMBIA, S.C. – The Department of Health and Environmental Control is working with Clemson University Livestock Poultry Health to help prevent the possible spread of the newly identified H3N2v influenza virus at the 2012 S.C. State Fair, the agency announced today.

“H3N2v is a new strain of the influenza virus that is circulating in pigs and has infected a number of people in several states,” said Interim State Epidemiologist Linda Bell, M.D. “Influenza is a reportable condition in South Carolina and part of our ongoing disease surveillance activities. At this time, we have not identified an Influenza A H3N2v case in South Carolina.”

Dr. Bell said H3N2v is a variant influenza virus that results when an influenza virus that normally circulates in swine is detected in humans. Influenza viruses are not unusual in swine and can be directly transmitted from swine to people and from people to swine. Influenza has not been shown to be transmitted by eating properly handled and prepared pork.

“Spread of the new influenza virus has been limited to people who have had direct contact with infected pigs or are close contacts of those who are infected,” said Dr. Bell. “Many cases resulted from caring for pigs at local fairs. With the upcoming arrival of the State Fair and several county fairs across the state, we encourage people to take good sense steps to protect themselves against possible exposure. These steps can help ensure a trip to the fair is both fun and safe.”

Dr. Bell recommends several simple methods for preventing the spread of illness at state or county fairs or when touring livestock centers:

  • Wash your hands frequently with soap and running water before and after exposure to animals.
  • Never eat, drink or put things in your mouth in animal areas, and don’t take food or drink into animal areas.
  • Young children, pregnant women, people 65 and older and people with weakened immune systems should avoid pigs and swine barns at the fairs this year.
  • If you have animals – including swine – watch them for signs of illness and call a veterinarian if you suspect they might be sick.
  • Avoid close contact with animals that look or act ill, when possible.

The federal Centers for Disease Control and Prevention recommend that persons at “high risk” for serious complications from the flu avoid swine barns at the fair. “High risk” includes children younger than 5, people 65 and older, pregnant women and people with certain long-term health conditions (such as asthma and other lung disease, diabetes, heart disease, weakened immune systems and neurological or neurodevelopmental conditions). Persons at high risk who develop signs of flu should seek prompt treatment.

“We are reminded once again by these cases of H3N2v influenza in swine and humans in other states that pigs and people can be susceptible to the same strains of influenza,” said Boyd H. Parr, DVM, director of CULPH and state veterinarian for S.C. “As always, biosecurity remains our best defense and works both ways by reducing or preventing infection of people by pigs and also the infection of pigs by people. CULPH is providing to SC fairs and youth livestock exhibitors recommendations that can minimize the opportunity for disease spread and allow the livestock education and entertainment opportunities provided by our fairs to continue.”

To help prevent the spread of seasonal influenza, Dr. Bell recommends frequent hand washing, coughing or sneezing into your arm instead of your hands, staying home if you become sick, avoiding others who appear to be sick, and getting an annual influenza shot.

Additional information about the H3N2v influenza virus can be found at http://www.scdhec.gov/flu/H3N2v.htm. Additional information about influenza in swine can be found at http://www.clemson.edu/public/lph/swine.html.

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For media inquiries:
Jim Beasley – (803) 898-7769
Email - beaslejc@dhec.sc.gov