Swine flu joins list of animal diseases that affect people

Apr 29, 2009 By Delthia Ricks

The swine flu virus that is smoldering in this country and triggering a full-blown outbreak in Mexico is one of a growing number of animal pathogens to jump the species barrier -- and may be the microbe that jumpstarts the first globe-circling pandemic of the 21st century, experts said Tuesday.

The virus is the second known triple-hybrid swine pathogen in history, a concoction of swine, human and bird genetic components to which people have no immunity. It is also the first triple-hybrid to make the leap from pigs to humans.

Unlike with , which people can get only through close contact with a sick bird or feces, this strain of has learned the trick of seasonal influenza and can be passed person-to-person easily.

Scientists are considering flies as one possible vector that may have transmitted the virus from pigs to people. Flies, experts said Tuesday, hover over vast lagoons that hold feces and other waste, byproducts of factory hog farming in Mexico.

"The possibility that flies were vectors is being investigated now," said Dr. Kristine Smith, a veterinarian with the Wildlife Conservation Society at the Bronx Zoo. "Whether that actually happened, no one knows yet."

And one of the people who survived an early, aggressive wave of infections at the beginning of the month apparently was a 4-year-old boy who lives near a factory farm with 1 million pigs on it, owned by a joint U.S.-Mexican company, global health officials say.

When people sustained these early infections, Mexican health officials were unaware that swine flu had started its run. The child's samples are being sent to the CDC and to the World Health Organization and will be able to confirm how early the sweep of H1N1 began.

The UN Food and Agriculture Organization is dispatching a team to the farm to determine the extent of the disease in animals. "At this stage it is ... not an animal crisis." said Joseph Domenech, UN chief veterinarian.

Smithfield Farms, the Virginia-based company that is co-owner of the factory farm in question, said in a statement Tuesday its herd and employees are free of the virus.

Dr. Michael Greger of the Humane Society of America said the first triple-hybrid swine virus was identified 11 years ago.

"Swine flu viruses were relatively stable until 1998 when the first triple-hybrid emerged on a factory farm in North Carolina," he said. "It was first detected in pigs in gestation crates. Animals like these are moved around a lot. They may start out in North Carolina but they were fattened in the Corn Belt and slaughtered in California."

In each state where pigs were transported that year, the rare triple-hybrid strain emerged. However, it remained in pigs, didn't cause serious disease, and didn't leap to .

The new strain doesn't cause serious porcine disease, either. " catch the flu all of the time," Greger added, "they get a loud barking cough."

___

(c) 2009, Newsday.
Visit Newsday online at www.newsday.com/
Distributed by McClatchy-Tribune Information Services.

Explore further: West Africa's Ebola outbreak prompts changes in I.Coast cuisine

add to favorites email to friend print save as pdf

Related Stories

Virus has bird, pig, human components: farm trade watchdog

Apr 27, 2009

The top agency for health in farm animals on Monday said Mexico's outbreak of deadly influenza was unleashed by a pathogen mixed from bird, human and hog viruses and branded the term "swine flu" as wrong and harmful to pig ...

Swine flu cases up to 7; officials expand probe (Update)

Apr 21, 2009

(AP) -- Health officials are investigating a never-before-seen form of the flu that combines pig, bird and human viruses and which has infected seven people in California and Texas. All the victims recovered, but the cases ...

Mexico City closes museums to stop flu outbreak

Apr 24, 2009

(AP) -- Mexico's federal government has closed museums, libraries, and state-run theaters as well as schools in its overcrowded capital to stop a swine flu outbreak authorities say may have killed as many ...

Recommended for you

Two expats die of MERS in Saudi commercial hub

16 hours ago

Two foreigners died of MERS in the Saudi city of Jeddah, the health ministry said Saturday, as fears rise over the spreading respiratory virus in the kingdom's commercial hub.

UAE reports 12 new cases of MERS

16 hours ago

Health authorities in the United Arab Emirates have announced 12 new cases of infection by the MERS coronavirus, but insisted the patients would be cured within two weeks.

Filipino tests negative for Middle East virus

Apr 19, 2014

A Filipino nurse who tested positive for the Middle East virus has been found free of infection in a subsequent examination after he returned home, Philippine health officials said Saturday.

User comments : 0

More news stories

Cancer stem cells linked to drug resistance

Most drugs used to treat lung, breast and pancreatic cancers also promote drug-resistance and ultimately spur tumor growth. Researchers at the University of California, San Diego School of Medicine have discovered ...

Making graphene in your kitchen

Graphene has been touted as a wonder material—the world's thinnest substance, but super-strong. Now scientists say it is so easy to make you could produce some in your kitchen.