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Two new cases of H3N2v flu strain reported in Minnesota

Two new possible cases of variant H3N2 influenza cases have been reported to the Minnesota Department of Health, state health officials said Thursday.

The new cases occurred in a school-aged girl from the Twin Cities area and a preschool-aged boy from greater Minnesota. Neither child was hospitalized, and both have fully recovered, the Health Department said.

Both children visited the swine barn at the Minnesota State Fair with their families on Sept. 2, and became ill on Sept. 5. The boy lives with his family on a farm where swine are raised, and could also have been exposed to H3N2v in that setting, health officials said. Neither family was exhibiting swine at the fair.

Lab specimens for both cases have been sent to the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention for confirmation.

This is the first time human infection with the H3N2v virus has been linked with possible exposure at the State Fair. Four confirmed or presumptive human cases involving a different flu strain, H1N2v, had previously been reported in people who spent time in the State Fair swine barn. Three confirmed or probable cases of the H3N2v strain had previously been reported in people who visited live animal markets in Dakota County.

Both strains can be spread from swine to humans, but are not easily spread through human-to-human exposure. Health officials continue to emphasize that you can't get either illness from eating pork.

Illness caused by both influenza strains has been identified this year in swine at the State Fair. A pig infected with the H3N2 virus was identified on Sept. 2.

The H3N2v strain has been a major focus of attention nationwide this fall, with the CDC recording 297 human cases and one death since the beginning of the year. Most of the cases have occurred in young people who were exhibiting swine at state or county fairs.

Both H1N2v and H3N2v typically result in illness comparable to regular seasonal flu.

State health officials said the state could still see additional cases of influenza associated with swine exposure at the State Fair, but the time window for new cases should be closing soon. The State Fair ended on Sept. 3.