1st Human Case of Swine Flu Variant Detected as Officials Scramble to Find Contacts

Officials in the UK said a ’single confirmed case' of an influenza A(H1N2)v variant was found.
1st Human Case of Swine Flu Variant Detected as Officials Scramble to Find Contacts
A file photo shows a form of swine flu taken at the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention's influenza laboratory. (U.S. CDC via The Epoch Times)
Jack Phillips
11/28/2023
Updated:
11/28/2023
0:00

A new type of influenza similar to a form of swine flu circulating in pigs was detected in the UK in a person for the first time, according to the country’s Health Security Agency.

In an announcement on Monday, the UK Health Security Agency (UKHSA) said that “a single confirmed case” of influenza A(H1N2)v was reported. Influenza A(H1N2)v is similar to influenza viruses that are circulating in pigs in the UK, it said.

“The individual concerned experienced a mild illness and has fully recovered. The source of their infection has not yet been ascertained and remains under investigation,” the statement said.

It added that close contacts of the single case are being followed up by the UKHSA and other organizations, adding that “any contacts will be offered testing as necessary and advised on any necessary further care if they have symptoms or test positive.”

“People with any respiratory symptoms should continue to follow the existing guidance; avoid contact with other people while symptoms persist, particularly if the people they are coming into contact with are elderly or have existing medical conditions,” the statement continued.

It’s not clear if the person who was infected had contact with pigs, and it’s not clear how the person contracted the virus.

The infection marks the first time that this exact form of the H1N2 virus, or 1b.1.1, has been detected among people, said Meera Chand, an official with the UK health agency, in the statement. However, it is “very similar” to viruses that have been detected in pigs, she said.

“We are working rapidly to trace close contacts and reduce any potential spread,” Ms. Chand said. “In accordance with established protocols, investigations are underway to learn how the individual acquired the infection and to assess whether there are any further associated cases.”

Cases of H1N2 among people are rare. Only a few dozen cases have been reported over the past two decades or so, and even fewer have been reported in the United States.

“To date, only sporadic human infections caused by influenza A(H3N2), A(H1N1) and A(H1N2) variant viruses have been reported in the United States, and there has been no evidence of sustained human-to-human transmission,” according to the World Health Organization (WHO). “Human infections with influenza variant viruses tend to result in mild clinical illness, although some cases have been hospitalized with more severe disease.”
Dr. Amesh Adalja, a infectious disease researcher at the Johns Hopkins Center for Health Security, told Fortune magazine that hundreds of separate swine flu cases are reported in the United States each year, namely among individuals who work around pigs and those who attend agricultural fairs.

“Most of these viruses do not have the capacity to spread between humans,” he said. “So it will be important to understand the transmission chain that led” to the human’s infection, including if that human had any exposure to pigs.

In 2009, there was an outbreak of swine flu in people caused by the influenza A H1N1(pdm09) virus, which had contained genetic material from viruses that spread through pigs, humans, and birds in recent decades, according to the UKHSA statement. That epidemic caused at least 150,000 deaths, while individuals younger than 65 made up about 80 percent of those fatalities, said the Cleveland Clinic.

At the time, the WHO declared a pandemic for that variant of swine flu, but it declared it over in August 2010.

“Influenza A H1N1(pdm09) is now circulating in humans seasonally and is no longer referred to as swine flu,” the UK health agency statement said. “It is distinct from the viruses currently circulating in pigs.”

Patients waiting for H1N1 treatment in a hospital in China's Anhui province on Jan. 8, 2010. (STR/AFP/Getty Images)
Patients waiting for H1N1 treatment in a hospital in China's Anhui province on Jan. 8, 2010. (STR/AFP/Getty Images)

But as for influenza A(H1N2)v, there have been a total of 50 human cases reported around the word since 2005, although none were related to the 1b.1.1 strain that was discovered by the UK health agency this week, the statement said.

Earlier this year, a teenager in Michigan was infected with influenza A(H1N2)v, according to World Health Organization officials.

“According to the report, the case is under 18 years old, with no comorbidities, resident in the State of Michigan, who developed respiratory illness on 29 July 2023. The case presented with fever, cough, sore throat, muscle aches, headache, shortness of breath, diarrhea, nausea, dizziness, and lethargy,” the U.N. health body said at the time. “On 29 July, the case sought medical care at an emergency department, and an upper respiratory tract specimen was collected on 30 July. The specimen tested positive for influenza A virus on the same day.”

The Epoch Times has contacted the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention for comment on the discovery.

Jack Phillips is a breaking news reporter with 15 years experience who started as a local New York City reporter. Having joined The Epoch Times' news team in 2009, Jack was born and raised near Modesto in California's Central Valley. Follow him on X: https://twitter.com/jackphillips5
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