As August digs its feet in, the summer begins its slow burn to the end. “Terrific!” people think as they hope for cooler weather. “Radiant!” others say as stare up at the summer sun. “Humble!” someone yells and gets a funny look from the person standing next to them. “Some pig!”… Some pig? And you realize it’s not summer they’re talking about. It’s the messages woven into the spider’s web in the 1952 classic Charlotte’s Web that people are bandying about during the weeks when agricultural fairs fill the weekends and memories of childhood books come flooding back.
In E. B. White’s world the biggest concern at the fair is the life of Wilbur. In the real world the rise of H3N2v influenza cases popping up at state agricultural fairs is a far bigger cause for concern.
In the past three weeks, the numbers of H3N2v influenza diagnoses have multiplied. According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, out of the 29 total cases reported in the past year, 16 have been registered in the last three weeks. It is being reported that 19 of those cases have been connected back to state agricultural fairs, all having swine on hand. The states affected have been Hawaii, Indiana, Iowa, Maine, Ohio, Pennsylvania, Utah, and West Virginia; the most being reported in Ohio at 10 cases.
According to the article, “signs and symptoms of H3N2v virus infection are similar to those caused by other respiratory infections, including seasonal influenza virus infection.” A fact sheet from the CDC states that the “virus is related to human flu viruses from the 1990s, so adults should have some immunity against these viruses, but young children probably do not.” Transmission of the flu does not appear to occur through pork that has been properly handled and cooked, so bacon lovers can relax.
Infectious diseases have been making a lot of appearances this year around the globe. In the August issue of The Lancet Infectious Diseases they published an Infectious Disease Surveillance Update. Without going into too much detail, four diseases in five different parts of the world were highlighted. Escherchia coli had a small outbreak in the United States of America, Plasmodium vivax appeared in Greece, Pertussis was spread across the United Kingdom, and Avian influenzashowed up in both Indonesia and Egypt. The largest outbreak of the four, by a staggering margin, was Pertussis, or whooping cough, which presented with 1,781 cases this year alone; already exhibiting 663 more cases than the entirety of 2011.
There are numerous ways to remain healthy and to avoid disease, and becoming more conscious of the food you are eating and the environment around you is one of them. Larger precautions such as vaccines all the way down to the simplest act of making sure to wash your hands throughout the day really help to guard one’s self against sickness.
UPDATE: The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention has announced that the number of Influenza A (H3N2) variant infection cases has jumped from 29 to 145 in the last week.
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