H1N1 levels high in Ohio this winter

For good reason, there has been much focus and discussion about the devastating PEDv virus in the hog industry that has resulted in losses of many young pigs. But along with PEDv, Ohio is having a significant increase with H1N1 flu in humans this winter.

According to the Ohio Department of Health (ODH), hospitalizations spiked in early January to 400 cases a week — almost double the three-year average. The surge in cases started in December and by Jan. 10 there were increasing reports of influenza-like illness in more than half the regions in the state. At that point, 833 influenza-associated hospitalizations had been reported to ODH. Most of the flu circulating in Ohio is the H1N1 strain from the 2009 influenza season, which is now considered a commonly circulating seasonal influenza strain. This strain disproportionately affects young and middle-aged adults. Fortunately, H1N1 is one of the flu strains included in this year’s vaccine.

The highest number of such hospitalizations has been reported in northeast and east central Ohio but activity in other parts of the state is quickly increasing. By Jan. 25, 1,970 hospitalizations had been reported.

“Because the flu virus is now widespread throughout Ohio, immunization is all the more essential,” said Dr. Ted Wymyslo, ODH Director. “Immunization is the safest and most effective way to fight the flu so I encourage all Ohioans who have not already done so to get vaccinated today.”

Flu vaccine is available at most healthcare providers’ offices, local health departments and retail pharmacy chains. Other effective ways to reduce the spread of illness include: washing hands frequently, or using alcohol-based hand sanitizer; covering coughs and sneezes with tissues, or coughing or sneezing into elbows; avoiding touching eyes, nose and mouth; and staying home when sick and until fever-free for 24 hours without using fever-reducing medication.

Warning signs that children need urgent medical attention include:

  • Fast breathing or trouble breathing
  • Bluish or gray skin color
  • Not drinking enough fluids
  • Severe or persistent vomiting
  • Not waking up or not interacting
  • Being so irritable that the child does not want to be held
  • Flu-like symptoms improve but then return with fever and worse cough.

In adults, emergency warning signs that need urgent medical attention include:

  • Difficulty breathing or shortness of breath
  • Pain or pressure in the chest or abdomen
  • Sudden dizziness
  • Confusion
  • Severe or persistent vomiting
  • Flu-like symptoms improve but then return with fever and worse cough.

In addition to the human cases, Tony Forshey, Ohio State Veterinarian, said there have been cases of H1N1 in Ohio hogs this winter.

“There is a lot more of this on the human side than the animal side at this point. It is a zoonotic issue and H1N1 can transfer between humans and animals and vice versa,” Forshey said. “It probably started in humans this time, as it did last time. We now have some on the pig side as well here in Ohio, but not too much. It is always on our radar. It can spread through farms fairly rapidly. There are a lot of respiratory or pneumonia type situations, but there is not a lot of mortality with this.”

Those working with hogs should be vigilant about being cleanly and biosecurity measures to prevent illness.

“Hog exhibitors and farmers need to be aware of the clinical signs with this. When they see that they need to get ahold of their veterinarian as soon as they can,” Forshey said. “Biosecurity is the big issue for a number of reasons. When you are going to shows and bringing pigs back to where there are other pigs, they need to be isolated and kept there. It is just good common sense. Every farm is laid out differently and your vet can help you with that.”

From the Ohio Department of Health.

From the Ohio Department of Health.



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