New swine flu sickens 2 more, may be linked to State Fairby Lorna Benson, Minnesota Public Radio
ST. PAUL, Minn. — Two Minnesota children who visited the State Fair swine barn contracted the new variant strain of H3N2 flu. Both children have recovered.
The Minnesota Department of Health says a grade school-aged girl visited the swine barn on Sept. 2, the same day that a pig in that building tested positive for the virus. A preschool-aged boy also visited the swine barn that day, but officials aren't sure if his illness was caused by exposure at the fair.
Under guidelines posted for this year's fair, the boy's visit to the swine building was not recommended because he was under age five and considered more susceptible to the flu.
"Now the younger child, certainly their family has swine at home, so you can certainly understand why they would not see any difference between being at home and going to the swine barn," said Joni Scheftel, state public health veterinarian. "We don't know for a fact where this child may have picked up the virus. It's certainly possible at home because this virus is circulating among Minnesota pigs."
Previously, a different variant strain of swine flu called H1N2 was linked to four illnesses among visitors to this year's State Fair.
In both swine flu outbreaks the pigs that were involved spent a long time at the fair, Scheftel said.
"All the pigs that became sick were what we call holdover pigs — pigs that didn't come in for their own show and then leave again, but pigs that came in for a show and stayed for another show," Scheftel said. "And so it gave them long enough to be exposed to influenza and develop the illness."
Scheftel said some fairs in other states, including Iowa, have banned the practice of holding pigs over for multiple competitions. She said Minnesota State Fair officials will likely consider whether Minnesota should adopt a similar policy.