Wednesday, April 22, 2009

Swine Flu

In an MMWR Dispatch this week, CDC reported cases of Swine Influenza A in a couple of children in Southern California. It doesn’t seem like the two kids had interaction with each other, nor did they have contact with pigs. The question then is, where did these kids get swine flu? It suggests there is some person-to-person transmission occurring. The report asks for surveillance from this California healthcare providers along with surveillance of people who work with swine or who were in contact with the sick kids. The report notes that one of the sick kids travelled to Texas earlier this month, so there are some investigations and enhanced surveillance happening there too. One wonders how the kid got to Texas – Vehicle? Airplane? -- and if there were other exposures en route.

Swine flu is an issue because most of the population probably does not have any antibodies. There has been a lot of concern among public health officials in the last couple of years about influenza pandemics. Of specific concern is the influenza A H5N1 virus. However, there is just as much chance of a pandemic from another strain, such as this one. According to the report, “This particular genetic combination of swine influenze segments has not been recognized previously among swine or human isolates in the United States, or elsewhere based on analyses of influenza genomic sequences available on GenBank.”

Pandemic is a scary sounding word. It doesn’t necessarily mean death, destruction, and the end of life on earth as we know it (despite often being portrayed that way). From the report it appears that the kids had mild illness, and both have recovered. The fact that it was swine flu was picked up through enhanced influenza surveillance and might not have been caught otherwise.

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