We're starting to talk about flu season, so it's time to mention swine flu as well. Normally, swine flu viruses do not affect people, they affect pigs. But cross-infection can happen.
H1-N1 Type-A influenza, or swine flu, first got the attention of health officials in the spring of 2009, near the end of a typical flu season. It's still circulating in people, according to Dr. Lisa Esolen, Medical Director of Infection Control with Geisinger Health System.
"We've had two clusters here in PA, both associated with county fairs. They were in August. And there's other fairs going on in September and October," said Dr. Esolen. Those clusters were in Huntingdon and Somerset counties, and most of the people infected were those who came in direct contact with pigs.
Dr. Esolen explains, flu viruses- including swine flu- can mutate from species to people, as is also the case with avian or bird flu.
"When it hops from their species to ours, it has never been seen by us before. And because of that, the concern is that we'll have complications, and a more severe infection because of it," Dr. Esolen said.
She stresses that people shouldn't avoid the animal exhibits at fairs, but certain folks should be cautious about swine flu, including children under the age of 5, adults over the age of 65, pregnant women, those with underlying health issues, and people in contact with pigs.
The easiest way to ward off any problems is to wash your hands before and after visiting pig exhibits.
"We're also asking people not to take food or drink into those areas, stuff that would have you touching your face a lot, picking something up and giving it to yourself," Dr. Esolen added.