Was this swine flu the result of a science experiment gone bad or simply a fluke of nature?
Newly found flu mixes pig, bird, human viruses
THE ASSOCIATED PRESS
ATLANTA — Health officials are investigating a never-before-seen form of the flu that combines pig, bird and human viruses and which has infected seven people in California and Texas. All the victims recovered, but the cases are a growing medical mystery because it’s unclear how they caught the virus.
None of the seven people was in contact with pigs, which is how people usually catch swine flu. And only a few were in contact with each other, according to the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.
Still, health officials said it’s not a cause for public alarm. The five in California and two in Texas all have recovered, and testing indicates some mainstream anti-viral medications seem to work against the virus.
Dr. Anne Schuchat of the CDC said officials believe that it can spread human-to-human, which is unusual for a swine flu virus.
The CDC is checking people who have been in contact with the seven people with confirmed cases, who all became ill from late March to mid-April.
Because of intensive searching, it’s likely that health officials will find additional cases, said Schuchat, director of the CDC’s National Center for Immunization and Respiratory Diseases.
CDC officials detected a virus with a unique combination of gene segments that have not been seen in people or pigs before. The bug contains a human virus, an avian virus from North America and pig viruses from North America, Europe and Asia.
Health officials have seen mixes of bird, pig and human virus before, but never such an intercontinental combination with more than one pig virus in the mix.