The first case of a new strain of ‘swine flu’ has been detected in a human in the UK. The last swine flu pandemic killed 457 people in Britain alone. A leading testing expert says this strain looks to be very different but is urging Brits to take precautions.
The UK Health Security Agency (UKHSA) has revealed a British person has contracted a new strain of so-called ‘swine flu’ – influenza A (H1N2)v. It’s the first detection of this strain of flu ever found in a human in the UK, although it is similar to flu viruses currently circulating in British pigs.
The concern is that the patient is not known to have worked with pigs. The UKHSA says: “As is usual early in emerging infection events, UKHSA is working closely with partners to determine the characteristics of the pathogen and assess the risk to human health.”
Dr Avinash Hari Narayanan (MBChB), Clinical Lead at London Medical Laboratory, says: ‘It’s known this specific strain of swine flu can be passed from ill pigs to humans, but it would be rare for the H1N2 strain to be passed from human to human without initial exposure to pigs. The fact that the patient, who lives in North Yorkshire, has no known contact with infected animals is leading to a wider investigation.
‘Influenza A (H1N2)v is very different to the influenza A H1N1/09 strain of swine flu that killed 457 people in the UK back in 2009/10. Even so, close contacts of the patient are being followed up by UKHSA and partner organizations. The UKHSA says: “The source of their infection has not yet been ascertained and remains under investigation.”
‘For this reason, we recommend people who become unwell consider being tested, particularly if they have had direct or indirect exposure to pigs or contaminated environments.
‘In humans, the symptoms of swine flu to look out for include:
- a high temperature
- a cough
- a runny nose
- body aches
‘However, these symptoms are very similar to seasonal flu and also some strains of Covid-19 and to RSV (respiratory syncytial virus), the latter producing cold-like symptoms but generally not a high temperature.
‘Other symptoms of swine flu may include:
- loss of appetite
‘Pregnant women are considerably more likely to develop serious complications from swine flu. The World Health Organization (WHO) states that up to 10% of all hospitalized patients with swine flu are women who are more than three months pregnant.
‘The early identification of this British case underlines how vital routine testing for flu and Covid remains. The individual was tested by their GP after experiencing respiratory symptoms and the virus was identified as part of routine national flu surveillance undertaken by UKHSA and the Royal College of General Practitioners (RCGP). The UKHSA used polymerase chain reaction (PCR) as a method of testing.
‘With health services under strain this winter, it is not always easy to access a flu test. However, it may be important for people to identify exactly which virus they are suffering from. Private tests are available, such as London Medical Laboratory’s pioneering 4-in-1 Covid, RSV, influenza A and B test. This is particularly useful for people who wish to differentiate whether they are suffering from a strain of flu or Covid-19. It’s still the recommendation of the NHS that people should try to stay at home and avoid contact with other people if they, or their child, have symptoms of Covid.
‘Remember, the current strains of flu that are circulating may produce only mild illness in one person but may cause severe symptoms and even prove fatal to others. This is particularly important in people with pre-existing health conditions and long-term diseases. Similarly, while the RSV virus may only produce chesty cold symptoms in some people, it can severely affect elderly people and children.
‘All of these viruses, including swine flu, display very similar initial symptoms to the common cold, but these symptoms may quickly escalate. For this reason alone, many people will want the peace of mind a test result can bring, ensuring they are not endangering anyone in their family this festive season.
‘The revolutionary Covid, RSV and flu A and B, 4-in-1 PCR Test can be taken at one of over 95 selected pharmacies, drop-in clinics and health stores nationwide or, for convenience, at home through the post.