A week before the premiere of Contagion, a star-studded thriller about (spoiler alert!) a pork-borne pandemic, is unfortunate timing for the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention to announce the identification of a new strain of swine flu in two young American children, a boy and a girl. The girl had visited an agricultural fair in Pennsylvania and had contact with pigs, but the boy who was hospitalized only had contact with someone who themself had contact with pigs two weeks prior, which “suggests the possibility that limited human-to-human transmission of this influenza virus occurred.”
The newly identified virus is a hybrid mutant combining a gene from the 2009 pandemic virus with genes from the swine flu virus that emerged and spread throughout factory farms in the United States a dozen years ago. The 2009 influenza pandemic was mild, hospitalizing a quarter million Americans, but killing only about a thousand children. The CDC is on alert for additional cases of the new strain.
Forty of my videos on the threat of swine flu can be found at “Flu Factories: Tracing the Origins of the Swine Flu Epidemic.” I’m honored to be presenting at the International Conference on Virology this week and I’ll report back on the latest from the trenches.
-Michael Greger, M.D.
Image credit: Esparta / Flickr