By Kimberly Eiten

BALTIMORE (WJZ) — A swine flu virus strain has been detected in 20 Marylanders who had close contact with pigs at three county fairs.

The outbreak coincides with the start of flu season, so health officials say people may not immediately connect their symptoms with a visit to the fair.

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The Maryland Department of Health reports none of those infected with the influenza virus strain H3N2v have become seriously ill.

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“We’re reporting a total of 20 cases associated with contact with pigs at these county fairs,” said Dr. Katherine Feldman of the Maryland Department of Health. “Right now, it’s really only causing illness that’s similar to seasonal influenza, so people will have a fever. They’ll have coughing, a sore throat. They may even have some signs.”

Those infected were in close contact with pigs at the Anne Arundel County Fair or The Great Frederick Fair.

Test results from the pigs at the Great Frederick Fair have been confirmed as the subtype H3N2, with 95 pigs still in isolation.

“We’re just kind of waiting it out to see what the results are, as far as the remainder of the tests that are pending,” said Frederick Fair executive assistant Karen Crum.

To curb exposure, the Maryland Department of Agriculture has ordered no pigs to be on display in Calvert County exhibits. The exhibits were canceled at the last fair of the season.

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Pigs being held at the Charles County Fair have been released, and the swine barn will be thoroughly cleaned and disinfected.

For anyone already feeling the symptoms, Dr. Feldman says call a doctor who may then alert the Health Department.

“We then will investigate to better understand what led to their illness, what kind of contact they had with swine,” she said.

She says high risk patients include young kinds, older adults and pregnant women.

To avoid the flu those people should stay away from pigs altogether and for others to keep heir hands away from the pigs.

Three farms in Frederick County have also been placed on a hold order, because some pigs were discharged from the fair before the virus was detected.

The flu does not impact the quality of any pork products when properly cooked.

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