Canada: First case of rare swine flu variant reported in central Alberta patient

Canada First case of rare swine flu variant reported in central Alberta patient
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EDMONTON, NOVEMBER 5: The first case in Canada of a rare swine flu variant was found in central Alberta patient last month.

In a joint statement, Chief Medical Officer of Health Dr Deena Hinshaw and Chief provincial veterinarian Dr Keith Lehman said on Wednesday that the case is only the 27th in the world since 2005.

“A confirmed case of Variant Influenza A (H1N2) has been detected in central Alberta,” Hinshaw and Lehman said in the statement.

“This currently appears to be one isolated case and there is no increased risk to Albertans at this time. This is the only influenza case reported in Alberta so far this flu season.”

The virus was detected in mid-October when a patient with influenza-like symptoms sought medical treatment at a hospital emergency department, Hinshaw said at a news conference on Wednesday.

“We are taking this seriously, as any human infection with a non-seasonal influenza virus needs to be followed up under our international obligations,” Hinshaw said.

A sample collected from the patient was tested for influenza and for COVID-19 as part of a routine process, added Hinshaw.

“In this particular case there was nothing about the presentation or the history that indicated any different concern than anyone else presenting with an upper respiratory tract type infection — influenza-like illness symptoms,” Hinshaw said.

“As part of our typical lab process, whenever we get an influenza positive, especially early in the season, part of the process is to move through into a typing, to understand what type it is, and as a part of that process it was identified that it was a non-seasonal strain,” Hinshaw added.

The patient followed through with a recommendation to stay home for 10 days, Hinshaw said.

Meanwhile, Alberta public health and agriculture officials have launched a public health investigation to find out the source of the virus and to make sure that no spread occurred.

Variant Influenza A (H1N2) is rare, with only 27 cases reported globally since 2005, and no cases in Canada prior to this one, Hinshaw and Lehman said in their joint statement.

Disclosing more details about influenza at the news conference, Hinshaw said it is “quite rare” to see the transmission of the illness from humans to animals or from animals to humans. There is “very limited opportunity for influenza from swine to transmit to humans” with biosecurity measures in place, she said.

Hinshaw further clarified that H1N2 is not a food-related illness and is not transmissible to people through pork meat or other products that come from pigs and that there is no risk associated with eating pork.

No links have been found between the influenza case and any slaughterhouses, Hinshaw said.

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