Pandemic flu hybrid virus in Chinese pigs

As my previous two blogs have documented, reassortments between flu viruses can result in novel (and lethal) new properties. Such a reassortment has recently been reported in a pig from mainland China.

From News.gov.hk, February 26, 2010

One pig sample taken at the Sheung Shui Slaughterhouse on January 7 contains essentially a swine influenza virus that had picked up an H1N1 gene, the University of Hong Kong has found.

This is the first time that a reassortment of swine flu virus with the pandemic H1N1 virus was found in its surveillance programme.

[snip]

The sample was taken from a pig imported from the Mainland. The Centre for Food Safety has informed the Mainland authorities which will step up monitoring and inspection of the registered farms supplying live pigs to Hong Kong.

Although this story was first reported a week ago, key information is still being suppressed. We know that at least one genomic segment from the pandemic H1N1 virus has been introduced into a new flu virus. However, we have not been told which genomic segment was introduced. The host virus is described as “essentially a swine influenza”. What does that mean? Pigs can host human flu viruses and bird flu viruses. Thus, the host virus could be H3N2, H5N1 or something different. There is no obvious reason to withhold this information and many good public health reasons to explicitly state which reassortment has occurred.

No-one hides good news.

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