Children's Urges Extra Care at Fairs to Protect Against New Strain of Swine Flu

September 25, 2012

With the popular State Fair of Texas opening Friday, Children’s Medical Center (www.childrens.com) physicians urge that extra precautions should be taken to prevent the spread of a new strain of swine flu.

Nationwide, hundreds of people have been infected this year. Because the main risk of infection from the virus, known as H3N2v, is prolonged exposure to pigs, fairs have accounted for an increased transmission of this new strain of swine flu. Due to the rising number of outbreaks, Children’s physicians offer tips to help protect visitors to all fairs.

According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, people at the highest risk of getting sick from the virus include children under 5; people with certain chronic conditions, such as asthma, diabetes, heart disease and weakened immune systems; pregnant women; and those 65 and older. However, exposure to pigs is the major risk factor for getting infected.

“If you or your child has an underlying illness, I would avoid contact with swine and other animals altogether,” said Dr. Jeffrey Kahn, division director for Infectious Disease at Children’s.

The virus is mainly spread through the air after an infected pig coughs or sneezes. But the illness can also spread when a person touches something that has the virus on it before touching one’s mouth or nose. “Fortunately, this virus has limited person-to-person spread,” Kahn said.

Tips to prevent the spread of the swine flu virus between people and pigs:

  • Don’t take food or drink into areas where pigs are located.
  • Don’t take pacifiers, cups, baby bottles, strollers or similar items into areas where pigs are kept.
  • Wash your hands before and after exposure to pigs.

“These influenza viruses are always changing, so they can be fairly unpredictable,” said Kahn, who is also is a professor of pediatrics and microbiology at UT Southwestern Medical Center. “They can mutate and change as they go from individual to individual. The CDC is watching the virus carefully to see if it changes and becomes easily transmittable from human to human.”

The petting zoo in the Children’s Medical Center Barnyard at the state fair features hand- sanitizing dispensers to protect children and families interacting with the animals, as well as signs encouraging their use.

Early steps have been taken to develop a vaccine against H3N2v, but according to the CDC, no decision has been made whether to produce such a dose in mass quantities.

About Children’s Medical Center

The private, not-for-profit Children's Medical Center is the fifth-largest pediatric healthcare provider in the country, with 559 licensed beds, two full-service campuses and 10 outpatient sites. Children’s was the state’s first pediatric hospital to achieve Level 1 Trauma status and is the only pediatric teaching facility in North Texas, affiliated with UT Southwestern Medical Center. For more information, please visit www.childrens.com.