UNITED KINGDOM — Public health officials in the UK have confirmed the first human case of a swine flu strain, H1N2, similar to one circulating in pigs.
The infected individual, who experienced respiratory symptoms, was identified through routine surveillance in general practitioner surgeries.
The UK Health Security Agency (UKHSA) is actively conducting contact tracing to prevent further spread, although the transmissibility of the strain and the possibility of additional cases are yet unknown.
The infected person, who has fully recovered, is not known to have had contact with pigs, raising questions about the source of the infection.
The UKHSA has informed the World Health Organisation (WHO) of the case, emphasizing that the situation is being closely monitored.
The H1N2 variant has resulted in approximately 50 reported human cases worldwide since 2005, with no genetic links to the current strain.
The detection occurred as part of routine national flu surveillance conducted by the UKHSA and the Royal College of GPs, a system in place prior to the COVID-19 pandemic. Polymerase Chain Reaction testing and genome sequencing were employed to identify the strain.
Despite early information suggesting differences from previously documented cases, the source of the infection remains undetermined and is under investigation. The UKHSA is actively providing veterinary and scientific knowledge to support the ongoing probe.
Close contacts of the infected individual are being tracked, with heightened surveillance in North Yorkshire, where the case was identified.
Christine Middlemiss, Chief Veterinary Officer at the UKHSA, assures that veterinary and scientific expertise is being employed to understand the situation better.
Notably, the H1N2 strain in question does not appear to be related to the 2009 swine flu pandemic, which affected millions worldwide.
The 2009 pandemic was caused by a virus containing genetic material from pigs, birds, and humans. Swine influenza A viruses, including subtypes H1N1, H1N2, and H3N2, are endemic in pig populations globally and occasionally infect humans after exposure to pigs or contaminated environments.
The 2009 H1N1 pandemic marked the first major influenza outbreak in the 21st century, resulting in a substantial death toll.
The official count of 18,500 deaths was later revised by The Lancet medical journal to a range between 151,700 and 575,400 fatalities.