Two U.S. children were infected with a previously unknown flu virus that apparently formed when a pig influenza virus picked up a gene from the strain that caused the swine flu pandemic in 2009, federal health officials reported Friday.
Both of the children recovered, however, and there is no evidence that the virus is spreading easily among people, meaning that it does not appear to pose a threat of becoming a significant public health concern, officials said.
“We want people to be aware of these things and we want physicians to be aware,” said Lyn Finelli, chief of surveillance and response at the federal Centers for Disease Control and Prevention Influenza Division. “But we don’t think that these cases in themselves are alarming.”
Both children are 2 years old, and both apparently were infected by exposure to pigs at county fairs. In one case, a boy in Indiana was apparently infected by a “caretaker” who had been showing pigs at a county fair a few days before the boy became ill, Finelli said. In the other, a girl in Pennsylvania appears to be have been infected when she went to a county fair and petting zoo, she said. No one else, including family members of the two children, appears to have become infected.
“We see four or five of these cases every year. They are commonly reported during times of state fairs and county fairs when there is more contact between people and pigs,” Finelli said. “These infections are similar to those that have been reported before.”
The Indiana boy developed a fever, cough, shortness of breath and diarrhea July 23. Because he had other chronic health problems, he was hospitalized the next day, but returned home three days later and completely recovered.