Swine flu cases found in Maryland

Six Queen Anne's County residents have been diagnosed with a strain of swine flu that has been infecting people across the country, including many who have been attending state and local agricultural fairs, according to state health officials.

There have been 224 cases identified nationally by the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, and state agricultural officials confirmed that the five children and one adult in Maryland from different families all came in contact with pigs at the Queen Anne's County fair as well as other locations. Officials say only rarely has the virus been transmitted from person to person.

The findings are preliminary and the H3N2v strain will be confirmed by additional testing, said officials at the state Department of Health and Mental Hygiene. Those infected have not become seriously ill or hospitalized, but they do have common influenza symptoms, including fever, sore throat and cough.

The H3N2v strain is not included in this year's seasonal flu vaccine, but officials say people still can take precautions to avoid infection. There are medicines to treat an infection, but most people recover without them, officials said.

They warn people to wash their hands frequently, stop touching their faces, avoid contact with sick people, avoiding eating in animal areas, and, if they are at risk for complications, to consider keeping away from the pig barns at the fairs.

"We're not telling people not to go to the fairs," said Dr. David Blythe, state epidemiologist. "None of the people infected here was hospitalized and none had serious complications or illness. And from a national standpoint, we're aware of only eight hospitalizations and no deaths. But we're still concerned, particularly for those at risk for complications, and want people to take precautions."

Those at risk include young children, pregnant women and those with chronic health conditions or compromised immune systems. People who have flu-like symptoms should contact their health care providers and tell them if they have had contact with pigs, the officials said.

Those who have symptoms also should cover their mouths when they cough or sneeze, wash their hands frequently and stay home from work or school, officials said.

Montgomery and Worcester counties are currently hosting fairs; the state fair is scheduled to begin Aug. 24. Maryland Department of Agriculture's animal health inspectors are monitoring pigs there and around the state for flu-like symptoms. They also are warning veterinarians to be on the lookout.

Cases of swine flu were first seen in 2011 and have been identified in eight other states this year.

Officials around the country are also warning people to take precautions to avoid whooping cough by getting a booster vaccination and West Nile virus by protecting themselves against mosquito bites.


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