Dr. Kara Odom Walker, Secretary
Jill Fredel, Director of Communications
302-255-9047, Pager 302-357-7498
Date: September 27, 2017
DOVER, DE (Sept. 27, 2017) The Delaware Division of Public Health (DPH) announced today the state's first laboratory-confirmed case of a variant influenza virus (in this instance H3N2v) in a female Sussex County resident under age 18, who had close contact with pigs at a county fair in Maryland. The case is mild and the individual is recovering. No additional information will be released on the individual to protect her privacy.
Any individual who visited a Maryland County fair within the last seven to ten days, had contact with pigs, and has subsequently developed flu symptoms after their last exposure, should call their medical provider to discuss the potential need for a flu test.
When an influenza virus that normally infects pigs is found in people, it is called a "variant" influenza virus. While it is not possible to determine exactly where the individual contracted the variant flu, also commonly known as the "swine flu", the Maryland Department of Agriculture has been investigating the appearance of this virus in pigs at the fairs in Charles and Frederick Counties. The Delaware resident reportedly had close contact with pigs at the Anne Arundel County Fair, the first suspected case of variant influenza from that event. Today the Maryland Department of Health announced “presumptive” positive cases of variant flu in Maryland residents who had close contact with pigs at the Anne Arundel County Fair as well.
Most commonly, human infections with swine flu occur in people who have been exposed to infected pigs (e.g., children handling pigs at agricultural fairs or workers in the swine industry). It is rare for influenza viruses that normally infect pigs to spread to people, but it is possible. Illnesses associated with variant influenza virus infections are usually mild with symptoms similar to those of seasonal flu, including fever and respiratory symptoms, such as sore throat and cough. While rare, limited human-to-human transmission of this variant also has occurred in the past, but has never been widespread or sustained. Such viruses should be taken seriously. The treatment recommendations for this strain of influenza are the same as for seasonal flu.
Individuals at higher risk for complications of influenza should consider avoiding exposure to pigs and swine barns, especially where sick pigs have been identified. The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) recommend that individuals not at high risk for complications wash hands often with soap and running water before and after exposure to pigs. If soap and water are not available, use an alcohol-based hand rub. For additional recommendations visit the CDC website at https://www.cdc.gov/flu/swineflu/variant/preventspreadfactsheet.htm.
DPH urges all Delawareans 6 months of age and older to get vaccinated from the flu. It is recommended that people get the flu shot to protect themselves from the strains circulating among humans and because it can help reduce the impact of any new strains circulating in animals. While the flu vaccine will not offer protection from the variant types of flu found in animals, it will protect from strains that pass easily from human to human. If someone is not vaccinated, it is possible for a person to get the human strain of influenza flu and subsequently the variant animal flu (or vice versa) at the same time. Two viruses in the same body means a potential recombination of the viruses could occur in that person and a "new" virus could be created that can spread more effectively person to person than current strains of the variant flu.
In Delaware, DPH is preparing to kick off its flu season activities with two free community flu clinics. The first will be held Thursday, Oct. 5, 2017, from 10:00 a.m. to 2:30 p.m. at the Porter State Service Center, 511 W. 8th St., Wilmington. The second will be a large-scale drive-through flu clinic on Tuesday, Oct. 10, 2017, from 6:00 a.m. to 6:00 p.m. in front of the DelDOT Administration Building on Route 113 South (800 Bay Road) Dover.
The flu is easy to transmit from person to person. Since it takes about two weeks after vaccination for antibodies that protect against influenza virus infection to develop in the body, Delawareans are encouraged to get vaccinated before influenza begins spreading in their community. Finding a nearby flu clinic or vaccination site is easier than ever before. Visit flu.Delaware.gov for a list of DPH clinics or Google "CDC flu finder," enter your ZIP code, and find nearby sites offering vaccinations.
Last flu season, Delaware had over 4,500 confirmed flu cases, 15 of which were fatal. The new flu season starts in October.
"Flu season officially begins next week and vaccines are still the best protection. The flu vaccine can either prevent the illness or reduce its severity in humans," said DPH Director Dr. Karyl Rattay. "It is especially important that older Delawareans and those with underlying health conditions get their flu shots early, preferably in October."
Flu symptoms come on suddenly, and include fever, cough, sore throat, runny or stuffy nose, headaches and body aches, and fatigue. Some people get complications including pneumonia, bronchitis, and sinus and ear infections. Providers can prescribe antiviral medicines to make the illness milder, hasten recovery, and prevent serious complications, hospitalizations, and even death.
Delawareans can prevent the spread of the flu and other respiratory illness with good hygiene: wash hands often with soap and water, use hand sanitizer with 60 percent alcohol, and cover coughs and sneezes with a tissue or aim for your inner elbow. Stay six feet away from others who are coughing or sneezing, and avoid touching your eyes, nose, or mouth. Persons with flu-like illness should stay home from work, school, and other gatherings and not return until free of fever - 100 degrees (37.8 degrees Celsius), without the use of fever-reducing medications for at least 24 hours.
If a medical provider suspects they have a patient with the variant flu virus, they should contact the DPH Office of Infectious Disease Epidemiology at 302-744-4990 to coordinate appropriate testing.
Swine flu cannot be contracted from eating cooked pork products. Anyone with questions about influenza in swine or other animals should contact the Delaware Department of Agriculture's Poultry and Animal Health Section at 302-698-4500 or 800-282-8685 (Delaware only).
A person who is deaf, hard-of-hearing, deaf-blind or speech-disabled can call the DPH phone number above by using TTY services. Dial 7-1-1 or 800-232-5460 to type your conversation to a relay operator, who reads your conversation to a hearing person at DPH. The relay operator types the hearing person's spoken words back to the TTY user. To learn more about TTY availability in Delaware, visit http://delawarerelay.com.
Delaware Health and Social Services is committed to improving the quality of the lives of Delaware's citizens by promoting health and well-being, fostering self-sufficiency, and protecting vulnerable populations. DPH, a division of DHSS, urges Delawareans to make healthier choices with the 5-2-1 Almost None campaign: eat 5 or more fruits and vegetables each day, have no more than 2 hours of recreational screen time each day (includes TV, computer, gaming), get 1 or more hours of physical activity each day, and drink almost no sugary beverages.
Delaware Health and Social Services is committed to improving the quality of the lives of Delaware's citizens by promoting health and well-being, fostering self-sufficiency, and protecting vulnerable populations.