Health officials offer suggestion to fair-goers
The Minnesota Department of Health has suggested that people who are at risk for health problems should consider avoiding pigs if they go to a county or state fair.
Nationwide, 29 cases of swine flu caught by humans directly from pigs have been confirmed since last July; 16 of those cases have occurred in the past three weeks. There have been no cases in Rochester.
At particular risk are people who handle pigs and those who see them at agricultural fairs, says a notice from Goodhue County Public Health.
"Human-to-human transmission has been very limited," the county notes. "Each of the 16 cases identified since July 12, 2012, reported contact with swine prior to illness onset; in 15 cases, contact occurred while attending or exhibiting swine at an agricultural fair."
Health officials warn that people with compromised immune systems, who are most at risk for flu complications, should consider avoiding swine areas.
The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention is preparing a vaccine in case the virus becomes transmissible from person to person.
"The reason the CDC is concerned about this particular virus is that it contains an element seen in the pandemic 2009 swine flu strain, H1N1, which may make it more likely for the virus to spread from person to person," the National Institutes of Health says.
Even though numbers are small, the virus has reached from Ohio to Indiana to Hawaii.
Most pig flu doesn't spread to humans, but people apparently have been spending too much time around swine during fairs.
During the 2009 H1N1 influenza pandemic, southeastern Minnesota was hit hard briefly after residents returned from the Minnesota State Fair.
Health officials don't want people to avoid fairs, but they hope that older people and people with chronic illnesses, such as heart disease or diabetes, spend more time around, say, cattle, horses and butter sculptures and maybe avoid the H3N2 influenza .