First human case of new illness found in UK
British public health authorities have detected the first human case of a new strain of swine flu circulating in the UK. While the patient recovered after suffering only mild symptoms, a swine flu pandemic in 2009 killed almost 20,000 people worldwide.
The UK Health Security Agency (UKHSA) announced the discovery on Monday, stating in a press release that the illness, a variant of the H1N2 virus, was discovered during routine testing.
The virus is distinct from the H1N2 variant that sporadically affects humans around the world, and is similar to a strain normally found in British pigs. The patient experienced a mild illness and fully recovered, the UKHSA said.
“Investigations are underway to learn how the individual acquired the infection and to assess whether there are any further associated cases,” UKHSA Incident Director Meera Chand said. “We are working rapidly to trace close contacts and reduce any potential spread.”
The announcement came a day after China’s National Health Commission said that a recent surge in pneumonia cases among children was caused by known pathogens and not a new kind of virus. Last week, the World Health Organization (WHO) formally requested that Beijing explain the rise in infections, which has prompted the country’s health ministry to order the opening of additional clinics in affected areas.
In 2009, a strain of influenza known as H1N1 spread from Mexico and infected between half a million and 1.4 billion people worldwide, according to various estimates. Although the virus contained genetic material from pig-, bird-, and human-borne viruses, it was commonly called “swine flu.” The WHO recorded 18,449 laboratory-confirmed deaths during the pandemic, although unconfirmed estimates put the death toll more than ten times higher.