Simple precautions can help protect people from new flu strain

People who come into contact with animals should use good hygiene practices to prevent exposure to influenza viruses.

People have recently come down with flu caused by a novel or variant of the H3N2 virus. In some cases this has occurred after people have come into contact with pigs at fairs and exhibitions. Swine flu viruses do not normally infect people; however variant viruses can be transferred from pigs to people. These types of viruses have been detected in the United States, including Michigan, and are known to cause influenza symptoms in people that have come into close contact with pigs. The H3N2 virus causes similar symptoms to seasonal influenza symptoms and severity.

It is important to understand that H3N2 is not a food safety threat and swine flu is not transmissible by consuming pork or pork products. Pork is safe to consume without concern of contracting flu caused by the H3N2 virus.

It is always important to use good hygiene practices when you come into contact with animals, the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention has issued the guidelines below to help prevent the spread of H3N2:

  • Wash your 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 or hand sanitizer.
  • Never eat, drink or put things in your mouth when in pig areas. Don’t take food or drink into pig areas.
  • Never take toys, pacifiers, spill-proof cups, baby bottles, strollers or similar items into pig areas.
  • Avoid close contact with pigs that look or act ill.
  • Avoid contact with pigs if you are experiencing flu-like symptoms. Avoid contact for 7 days after symptoms begin or until you have been fever-free for 24 hours without the use of fever-reducing medications, whichever is longer.

More information about H3N2 can be found at the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention’s  Seasonal Influenza page or the National Pork Board’s Influenza Update.

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