H3N2 flu outbreak reported at Arkansas cancer facility

Wednesday, August 7, 2013
By Paul Martin

Robert Roos
Aug 07, 2013

A summer influenza outbreak at a cancer facility in Little Rock, Ark., sparked concern about the possibility of an unusual strain such as swine-origin variant H3N2 (H3N2v), but the virus turned out to be a seasonal strain of H3N2, according to a state health official.

Thirty-three cases have been reported in the outbreak at the University of Arkansas for Medical Sciences Myeloma Institute, Dirk Haselow, MD, PhD, the Arkansas state epidemiologist, told CIDRAP News.

Given the timing, the outbreak raised concern about the chance of an unusual resistant strain or of H3N2v, among other possibilities, he said.

“We’re happy to report that it’s not a variant flu. It seems to be a garden-variety seasonal flu,” Haselow said. “Tests at CDC verify that it doesn’t come from other animals.”

More than 300 cases of H3N2v were reported in the United States last summer, the vast majority of them in children who had contact with pigs at county and state fairs. So far this summer, only a few cases have been reported.

Haselow said the first case in the outbreak was reported Jul 30. Of the 33 people affected, 30 have been patients at the institute, 1 is a staff member, and 2 are family members of other case-patients.

About a third of those affected were temporarily hospitalized, but there have been no deaths, Haselow said, noting that patients at the institute all have underlying conditions. “This strain doesn’t appear to be more virulent than any other flu,” he added.

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