MPR’s Lorna Benson reports today that another person has been struck by a variant of H1N2, the swine flu strain linked to some animals at the Minnesota State Fair.
All four people who have contracted the virus so far were exhibitors or family members of exhibitors who spent prolonged periods of time with pigs at the fair, according to Minnesota assistant state epidemiologist Richard Danila.
LiveScience.com reports today there are “lethal signs” in some research into a different strain of H1N2. In tests, ferrets — taking the place of humans in the research — developed some serious illnesses.
This virulent strain, H1N2, caused classic flu symptoms in the ferrets, from sneezing and labored breathing to weight loss and high fever. All three ferrets inoculated with the disease died or were euthanized humanely within 10 days. Three more ferrets were exposed to the sick animals (before they died); two of them contracted the flu. One died, and the other had to be euthanized because its illness was so severe.
What’s the big deal with flu in pigs? They’re considered a “a perfect mixing pot for different versions of the virus,” which makes them the link in transmitting a disease to another species — humans, for example.
But researchers say H1N2 is a close “cousin” of H1N1 and if people were vaccinated during the pandemic scare a few years ago, they’re probably safe from this latest strain, according to LiveScience.com.
Still, there was a cry in some quarters to close the swine barn at the State Fair amid the possibility of a big flu outbreak of some variety. State officials insisted the likelihood was small and resisted the gloomy predictions. Apparently, they were right. The state epidemiologist says the number of calls reporting flu symptoms are “way down.”