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3 new cases of influenza linked to swine exposure at Minn. State Fair

Three people are believed to have developed a strain of influenza known as variant H1N2 (H1N2v) after exhibiting pigs or spending time in the swine barn at the Minnesota State Fair, the Minnesota Department of Health said Friday afternoon.

One of the three cases has been confirmed by the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. Test results for the other two are pending.

The H1N2v strain is different from the H3N2v strain that has prompted stepped-up surveillance and prevention efforts nationwide, after causing 289 reported cases of illness and one death since the beginning of the year.

State health department officials said they are not aware of any additional human influenza cases caused by H1N2v, and they do not anticipate changing their current public health recommendations regarding human exposure to swine. But they said they will continue to assess the situation and conduct aggressive surveillance for additional influenza cases.

Current recommendations include asking individuals at high risk for severe influenza to avoid swine contact at exhibitions, fairs, live markets and other venues, including the swine barn at the State Fair. High-risk individuals include children under 5 years of age, pregnant women, people 65 years of age or older and those with chronic medical conditions.

"For the past two weeks, we have been looking very hard for cases of influenza in people who have been exposed to swine," said Richard Danila, deputy state epidemiologist. "We have also worked closely with our veterinary colleagues to remain informed about potential infections in swine at the fair. It is because of this careful surveillance that these cases have come to our attention.

Danila said there is no basis right now for changing the health department's recommendations to the public.

The illness has been confirmed in a teenage girl who was exhibiting pigs at the fair and became ill on Aug. 26. The other two cases occurred in an elementary school-aged boy who became ill on Aug. 27 after spending all day in the swine barn on Aug. 24, and a woman in her late 70s who became ill on Aug. 26 after spending a prolonged period of time in the swine barn and at the swine show in the Exhibit Hall on Aug 24.

Both the boy and the older woman had underlying health conditions, and were treated with antiviral drugs. The woman was hospitalized, but has now been released. All three patients have recovered or are recovering, state health officials said.

The teenager was tested for influenza after she reported illness to nursing staff at the fair. The other cases were reported to the Minnesota Department of Health by health care providers. Health care providers have been asked to report cases of influenza-like illness in people who report that they have had contact with swine. Swine exhibitors have been asked to report it if they experience symptoms of influenza.

Fair officials have also been monitoring swine for possible symptoms of illness, so they can be tested. Two pigs at the swine exhibit were found to be infected with the same H1N2 virus earlier this week, and were both isolated from contact with other pigs. Infection with H1N2 is not considered unusual in pigs.