Rare human swine flu case deemed low threat in Alberta

Influenza A (H1N2)v is linked to contact with pigs, and provincial officials continue their investigation into potential sources of the virus


By Barb Glen, The Western Producer (Canada)

November 12, 2020


A case of swine influenza contracted by a person in central Alberta is believed to be an isolated incident with low threat to either other people or to pigs.


Dr. Deena Hinshaw, Alberta’s chief medical officer of health, said Nov. 4 that it was the first reported case in Canada of a person getting this particular flu, called influenza A (H1N2)v. Worldwide there have been only 27 cases since 2005, all connected to direct or indirect contact with pigs and none have led to “sustained human to human transmission.”


The virus is not easily transmitted between people.


“Influenza viruses that normally circulate in pigs, including H1N2, can infect people although this is not common,” said Hinshaw.


The case was detected in mid-October when the affected person sought medical care for signs of flu.


“The patient experienced mild symptoms, was tested and then quickly recovered,” said Hinshaw. “There was no evidence at this time that the virus had spread further.”


H1N2 influenza in hogs is a provincially notifiable disease, which means veterinarians must report any cases within 24 hours of discovery. That brought Alberta’s chief veterinarian Dr. Keith Lehman into the picture.


As of Nov. 4, the investigation into the source was ongoing.


“There is no evidence of risk to the public. H1N2 is not a food-related illness. It is not transmissible to people through pork meat or other products that come from pigs. There is no risk associated with eating pork,” Hinshaw said.


Lehman said potential sources were being checked. However, influenza among pigs is not unusual in any operation here or around the world.


In Alberta pigs, he said there might be 10 to 30 cases per quarter, on average.


“It is a virus that is not uncommon in our swine populations,” said Lehman. “Typically when we do have influenza in our swine populations it’s actually not even uncommon for it to be in a herd and not show any signs of clinical disease. But when it does show up, typically it’s pretty mild.”


He said this particular strain of influenza has become more prevalent in recent years but is not considered a major threat...