ATLANTA (AP) — Don’t pet the pigs.
That’s the message state and county fair visitors got yesterday from health officials who reported a fivefold increase of cases of a new strain of swine flu that spreads from pigs to people. Most of the cases are linked to the fairs, where visitors are in close contact with infected pigs.
This flu has mild symptoms and it’s not really spreading from person to person.
“This is not a pandemic situation,” said Dr. Joseph Bresee of the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.
But any flu can be a risk for some people, and people should be cautious when they can, he added.
The case count jumped from 29 a week ago to 158 this week, thanks to a wave of new cases in Indiana and Ohio, said Bresee, the agency’s chief of influenza epidemiology.
Most of the infected patients are children — probably because many were working closely with raising, displaying and visiting pigs at the agricultural fairs, Bresee said.
The recent cases include at least 113 in Indiana, 30 in Ohio, one in Hawaii and one in Illinois, Bresee said in a conference call with reporters.
The count is changing rapidly. Indiana health officials yesterday afternoon said they had seven more confirmed cases than Bresee noted. That would raise the grand total to 165 so far.
Also, diagnosis of cases has become quicker in the last week. CDC no longer must confirm a case with its own lab. Now states are using CDC test kits to confirm cases on their own on, speeding the process along. The newly reported cases were likely infected a week or two ago.
The CDC has been tracking cases since last summer. A concern: The new strain has a gene from the 2009 pandemic strain that might let it spread more easily than pig viruses normally do.