A pig virus has infected a person in Britain for the first time, health authorities have said.
A person with mild respiratory symptoms was found to be infected with a strain of influenza A(H1N2)v which is different from the H1N1 flu which caused the 2009 pandemic.
Around 50 people globally have previously been found to be infected with this virus but this is the first-known UK case.
The patient was swabbed by their GP and routine analysis found the individual to have the porcine strain. The virus is very similar genetically to viruses that infect pigs and it is unknown whether the patient caught the virus directly from an animal, from food, from another person, or some other source.
Close contacts are being traced by officials at the UK Health Security Agency (UKHSA).
This new strain was genetically distinct and not related to any of the 50 other H1N2v infections in people globally, the UKHSA said.
‘Working rapidly to trace close contacts’
Preliminary analysis from UK health officials found the infection detected in the UK is a distinct clade (1b.1.1), which is different from recent human cases of influenza A(H1N2) elsewhere in the world. However, it is very similar to veterinary infections known to be circulating in UK pigs.
Meera Chand, incident director at UKHSA, said: “It is thanks to routine flu surveillance and genome sequencing that we have been able to detect this virus.
“This is the first time we have detected this virus in humans in the UK, though it is very similar to viruses that have been detected in pigs.
“We are working rapidly to trace close contacts and reduce any potential spread. 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.”
The UK’s chief veterinary officer, Christine Middlemiss, said: “We know that some diseases of animals can be transferred to humans – which is why high standards of animal health, welfare and biosecurity are so important.
“Through our animal and human surveillance systems we work together to protect everyone. In this case we are providing specialist veterinary and scientific knowledge to support the UKHSA investigation.
“Pig keepers must also report any suspicion of swine flu in their herds to their local vet immediately.”