The Minnesota Department of Health today confirmed the state's first case of swine flu of the year.
Illnesses in two Twin Cities children from one family were reported to the agency late last week. A younger child tested positive for swine flu. An older child did not test positive for the illness, although the agency considers it to be a likely case. Both children are recovering.
Joni Scheftel, state public health veterinarian with the Minnesota Department of Health, said the illnesses were likely contracted at a live animal market in Dakota County on Aug. 10.
"In this case, it was what we call indirect contact where they were within a few feet of the animals and were touching the environment; things like the railing of the fencing," Scheftel said.
It's not known which farm the pigs came from, but Scheftel said influenza is very common in pigs. The H3N2 strain of swine flu appears to be very mild and is not easily communicated between humans, she said.
The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention has counted 224 cases of swine flu nationwide this year in eight states, not including these Minnesota cases. Many cases have been traced to exposures at state and county fairs.
As the Minnesota State Fair opens this week, health authorities urge fairgoers to take precautions.
"This is no reason not to go to the fair, but we are recommending that you wash your hands after you go into the animal barns and certainly before you eat," Scheftel said. "We're also recommending that people not eat or drink in the animal barns, and that includes not bringing pacifiers and baby bottles and even strollers into the animal buildings."
People with compromised immune systems, the very young, the very old and pregnant women should consider avoiding pigs during their fair visit, Scheftel said.