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“Variant” Flu Case Confirmed on Maui

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   July 31st, 2012 · No Disqus Comments ·
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· Featured, Maui News

File photo by Wendy Osher.

By Wendy Osher

Local and federal officials are investigating a confirmed H3N2v flu case in an adult patient on Maui.

State health officials have described the case as a “variant flu.” According to the Centers For Disease Control and Prevention, investigations reveal that human infections with the virus have appeared following contact with swine as well as limited human-to-human transmission.

The Hawaii State Department of Health is working with federal and state partners to determine the source of how the resident contracted the virus.

State health officials say the individual sought medical attention after experiencing symptoms consistent with the regular flu, including fever, cough, and body aches.

The patient’s primary care doctor sent a respiratory specimen to the State Laboratories Division for testing.  Authorities say the results were confirmed late last week by the CDC.

The patient has since fully recovered, and did not require hospitalization, state health officials said.

“Fortunately, we have a robust surveillance network and our state laboratory detected this variant virus and conferred with federal partners,” said Health Director Loretta Fuddy in a statement.

“Thanks to the excellent cooperation of Hawaii’s healthcare providers, participation in our sentinel network exceeds CDC recommendations. In addition to our state laboratory’s ability to identify unusual flu strains, sentinel physicians contribute to our ability to catch incidents such as this, which might otherwise fall below the radar,” said Fuddy.

State health officials say the H3N2v virus identified in this case shares genetic similarities to variant flu viruses which have been identified in several other states in the past year.

The virus is rare in humans, according to health officials.  Authorities say the small number of previous infections occurred mostly among children and those who work closely with pigs.

In this case, preliminary DOH findings suggest the latter exposure, although the investigation is ongoing, health officials said.

“The virus seems to be behaving as previously observed in other cases, with illness similar to seasonal flu and with no sustained community transmission,” said state epidemiologist Dr. Sarah Park. “Still, anyone who develops flu-like illness within a week after close contact with domestic pigs should see their healthcare provider.”

HDOA officials say this particular virus is mainly transmitted through exposure to infected swine and is not transmitted through properly cooked pork.

“HDOA veterinarians will be taking samples to investigate the status of swine herds potentially associated with this case,” said HDOA state veterinarian Dr. James Foppoli.

***Supporting information courtesy State of Hawai’i, Department of Health.

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