"Variant" Flu Virus Detected; Fourth Such Case in Iowa in Past Year

By Cindy Hadish, Reporter


By Liz Blood

CEDAR COUNTY, Iowa - Influenza surveillance is being heightened in Cedar County after a child there was diagnosed with a “variant” flu virus that differs from seasonal flu.

The H3N2v influenza A strain was verified by the U.S. Centers for Disease Control & Prevention and the State Hygienic Laboratory.

State epidemiologist Dr. Patricia Quinlisk said the child – who has since recovered - had not been in contact with swine, one of the modes of transmission.

Quinlisk said health professionals in the Cedar County area are being asked to take more specimens for testing from people who might have the flu.

According to the CDC, 320 cases of the variant virus have been detected in the United States since August 2011.

One person has died from the strain and 16 have been hospitalized this year, according to the CDC. Quinlisk said none of those were in Iowa.

Three Iowa children had the same strain in November 2011, she said. All recovered.

Twelve other states besides Iowa reported cases between last year and this one. Indiana reported the most, with 138 cases this year.

Some of the Indiana cases were tied to contact with pigs at a county fair.

Quinlisk said none of the Iowa patients had contact with swine or other animals.

“We seem to be having human-to-human spread,” she said, adding that transmission does not appear to go beyond one or two people.

The CDC noted that people do not get swine flu by eating pork.

Symptoms and severity of the H3N2v illness are similar to seasonal flu, with fever and respiratory difficulties, such as cough and runny nose, and sometimes other symptoms, including body aches, nausea, vomiting or diarrhea.

According to the CDC, the strain is mainly spread when an infected pig coughs or sneezes and droplets lands in a person’s nose or mouth or are inhaled. It also might be spread by touching something that has virus on it and or by inhaling dust containing influenza virus.

The CDC said the virus is related to human flu viruses from the 1990s, so adults should have some immunity, but young children probably do not. Seasonal vaccine does not protect against the strain.

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