The Maine Center for Disease Control and Prevention is investigating a human case in Cumberland County of “novel influenza virus of swine origin” — a new strain of flu associated with pigs.
State Epidemiologist Stephen Sears said Thursday that a 7-year-old girl from Cumberland County became ill with flu-like symptoms in early October. Because the state is on alert for the arrival of seasonal flu in Maine, the girl was tested. Results found an unusual strain of influenza, later confirmed by the U.S. Centers for Disease Control as genetically similar to a new strain that has been identified in three cases in Pennsylvania and one case in Indiana.
Prior to being diagnosed, the girl had been exposed to pigs at an agricultural fair in Maine. The Maine CDC and Maine Department of Agriculture are jointly investigating that exposure, in cooperation with the federal CDC.
The child in Maine was treated by her primary care physician without hospitalization and is recovering, Sears said. Her symptoms were consistent with seasonal flu — fever, cough, headache, sore throat and muscle pain.
“It is always important when an unusual strain of influenza is discovered,” Sears said, although public health experts do not expect the new strain to pose the widespread threat that H1N1 did two years ago.
Sears said seasonal flu has been identified in several states but has not yet emerged in Maine. It appears the flu vaccine currently being administered in clinics and pharmacies around the state is a good match for the seasonal flu.
Influenza is linked to thousands of deaths each year in the United States, primarily among the elderly, infants and those with chronic illnesses. The CDC recommends that everyone over the age of 6 months get a flu vaccine each year.
In addition, people can protect themselves and help limit the spread if the virus by washing their hands often, covering coughs and sneezes and staying home when ill.
To find a vaccine clinic near you, visit www.flu.gov.