LITTLE ROCK, Ark. (CDC) - Two people in Arkansas have been infected with a strain of influenza (flu) known as H1N1(v) after contact with swine (pigs). These cases have been confirmed by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC).

"A few times a year an animal variant of the influenza virus is identified in humans" said Dr. Dirk Haselow, State Epidemiologist. "Viruses of this type typically cause only mild illness in those affected and, in contrast to seasonal flu, are not easily transmitted from person to person" added Haselow. ADH has carefully monitored the patient contacts for several days without evidence of any human to human spread. Both patients identified to date have recovered fully.

When an influenza virus that normally circulates in swine is detected in a person, it is called a variant influenza virus and is labeled with a 'v'. Influenza viruses such as H1N1(v) and other related variants are not unusual in swine and can be directly transmitted from swine to people and from people to swine. When humans are in close proximity to live swine, such as in barns and livestock exhibits at fairs, movement of these viruses can occur back and forth between humans and animals.

"We are not currently aware of any additional human influenza cases caused by H1N1(v) and do not anticipate making any new public health recommendations regarding human exposure to swine. However, we will continue to assess the situation and conduct aggressive surveillance for additional influenza cases" Haselow emphasized.

Influenza has not been shown to be transmitted by eating properly handled and prepared pork or other products derived from pigs.

"ADH has been carefully following all suspected cases of influenza. We have also worked closely with our veterinary colleagues and the Arkansas Livestock and Poultry Commission to remain informed about potential infections in swine. It is because of this careful surveillance that these cases have come to our attention," said Haselow.

Case investigations have indicated that the illnesses resulting from H1N1(v) infection have been similar to seasonal influenza. Symptoms include fever, muscle aches, decreased energy, coughing, runny nose, and sore throat. Contact your health care provider if you are experiencing flu-like symptoms and inform the doctor if you have had contact with swine.

To prevent the spread of other infections you can get from animals, the following precautions are recommended:

• Wash your hands often with soap and running water. Particularly after contact with animals. If soap and water are not available, use an alcohol-based hand rub.

• Never eat, drink or put things in your mouth in areas where animals are present, and don't take food or drink into areas where animals are housed.

• Never take toys, pacifiers, spill-proof cups, baby bottles, strollers or similar items into areas with animals.

• Avoid close contact with animals that look or act ill.

• Children younger than 5 years, people 65 years and older, pregnant women, and people with certain chronic medical conditions (like asthma, diabetes, heart disease, weakened immune and nervous systems) are at higher risk for serious complications of infections. These people should consider avoiding exposure to pigs and other animals at petting zoos and barns during fair season.

(Source: Centers for Disease Control)

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