Swine flu has been spotted again in Pennsylvania. Last week two children were identified as having contracted the virus, and early this week state officials confirmed two more cases both in children. The two children from last week have recovered, and the other two are being treated. However, all four cases are connected to the Washington County Agricultural Fair held the week of Aug. 13-20. The virus is referred to as swine flu because it has been infecting pigs for the last several years, and the reappearance of the virus raises many questions due to the 2009 pandemic.
I was at the Washington County Fair -- should I be worried?
Anyone who was at the Washington County Fair that has developed flu-like symptoms is being asked to call (800) PA-HEALTH -- (800) 724-32584. While location of the confirmed cases might be a coincidence, so far it is the common thread in all four situations. However, no cases of human-to-human transfer of the virus have been confirmed.
What are the symptoms of swine flu?
The symptoms of swine flu are very similar to seasonal flu and include: fatigue, coughing, and fever. While other symptoms are possible, as a precaution anyone with flu like symptoms is being asked to call the contact number.
Is the fair at fault?
The Pennsylvania Department of Agriculture monitors the health of all the animals at fairs. Since no animals were reported ill, the fair believes it is not to blame for the infections. It is not yet determined that the sick children contracted the virus at the fair or at another location.
Why are these cases so special?
These cases stand out because this particular strain of the virus contains a gene from the original virus that caused the pandemic. The current flu shots do not contain vaccinations against this particular strain of virus, although it does contain two for common swine flu classifications: H1N1 and H3N2. The virus that has sickened the children can be spread from animal to human or from one human to another.
Is another pandemic on the way?
Thoughts of all residents are shifting to 2009 when 2,000 people in Western Pennsylvania fell ill to the virus and caused at least 18 deaths. So far rather than be concerned about a pandemic, residents should monitor the research of the path the illness has taken and be prepared to take appropriate action.
Jason Gallagher is a long-time Pennsylvania resident. He has experiences in trends and developments in many regions from having lived in many parts of the Keystone State, and currently resides in the Pittsburgh area.