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New swine flu virus identified in Weber County

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OGDEN — A Weber County resident has tested positive for a novel flu virus, similar to those that circulate in pigs.

The variant influenza A H3N2 virus has been confirmed in at least a dozen isolated cases in the United States, but Wednesday's announcement by the Weber-Morgan Health Department identified the first in Utah.

The virus was confirmed by the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, which reports the virus presented itself in the U.S. during the second half of 2011.

"While there is no evidence that sustained human-to-human transmission is occurring, all influenza viruses may become widespread," according to the CDC. They liken the severity of the virus strain to similar seasonal flu virus infections.

Health departments are required to report the incidence of any flu variant. Information prompts prevention strategies throughout communities.

The affected person was not hospitalized for the illness, features of which include fever, cough and other flu-like symptoms. As a precaution, all known contacts have been advised to watch for symptoms and contact a doctor if necessary.

The department and the CDC will continue to monitor the illness in Utah, as it is common for both agencies to track diseases that are capable of transmitting from animals to humans, said health director Gary House. He said they are also working to determine how the patient was exposed to the flu.

“Fortunately, this individual is getting better,” House said. “We know there have been 12 other cases within the past year in the United States that have also fully recovered."

The 12 cases have been identified in Indiana, Iowa, Maine, Pennsylvania and West Virginia. At least half of those recently infected have had contact with pigs, but in some cases, the virus has spread from person to person. The variant strain is related to human flu viruses from the 1990s, so adults should have some immunity, but children likely do not, according to the CDC.

A vaccine against the strain is not yet being manufactured, but health officials are watching the illness closely at this time.

Residents are reminded to take preventive measures, such as covering coughs and sneezes, staying at home when ill, and frequently washing hands.

“We learned from the H1N1 experience of 2009 that the public’s willingness to follow these simple precautions is the best line of defense,” House said.

E-mail: wleonard@desnews.com Twitter: wendyleonards