HONOLULU (HawaiiNewsNow) - A variant flu strain has been identified in Hawaii for the first time. The H3N2v virus, which is normally found in pigs, infected a person on Maui earlier this month, according to authorities. It's not the same strain as the H1N1 virus involved in the swine flu pandemic a few years ago.
The Maui resident went to the doctor after experiencing symptoms consistent with the regular flu, including fever, cough and body aches. Since the patient's physician happened to be part of the state's network that monitors flu-like illnesses, a sample was sent to the state lab for testing. The patient, who was exposed to pigs, has since recovered without any hospitalization.
"Even though there is no immediate public health threat, in the flu world, this is something of interest because you want to follow any viruses that are not normal. Not part of the normal circulating group," explained state epidemiologist Dr. Sarah Park.
The H3N2v virus in this case is genetically similar to variant flu viruses identified in several other states in the past year, according to health officials. Experts said the virus has rarely infected humans, and has caused limited human to human infection. This particular virus is not transmitted through properly cooked pork.
State veterinarians will take samples to check swine herds associated with this case. Authorities are urging pig farmers and others with close contact to swine to wash their hands and to contact their doctor if they develop a flu-like illness.