Two cases of rare swine flu variants found in separate Manitoba communities

WINNIPEG — Two cases of rare swine flu variants have been identified in people in southern Manitoba, but health officials say they are separate strains and in different communities.

The variants Influenza A H1N2 and A H1N1 were detected earlier this month.

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"There is no increased risk to people and no evidence of sustained human-to-human transmission at this time," Dr. Brent Roussin, chief public health officer, said Friday.

Roussin said both people developed mild symptoms and were initially tested for COVID-19. Those tests came back negative, but further testing discovered the swine flu variants.

The people have since recovered.

Roussin would not give details on where the people live or work, but said they had direct or indirect exposure to pigs.

Officials said neither case is linked to any Maple Leaf processing plants in southern Manitoba.

"Sporadic cases of these variant influenza have been reported over the last decade in North America," Roussin said.

There have been 29 cases globally of the H1N2 variant since 2005 when reporting became mandatory. The only other Canadian case was identified in Alberta last year.

The H1N1 variant is also rarely seen in humans. Manitoba's case is the second in Canada, following a case identified in Ontario in 2012. There were two cases in the United States earlier this year.

Roussin said health officials are still investigating, but further testing has shown no other spread among humans.

He said they were likely coincidentally discovered because of increased screening taking place because of the COVID-19 pandemic. It is also possible that there is a true increase in the number of these cases, he added.

Dr. Scott Zaari, Manitoba's chief veterinary officer, said pork in the province is safe to eat.

"These viruses are not a food-related illness," he said. "It is not transmissible to people through pork meat or other products that come from pigs."

Manitoba Pork, which represents producers, said hog farmers have been monitoring for swine influenza for many years.

The organization is reminding farmers to follow and strengthen biosecurity protocols, including handwashing and wearing personal protective equipment.

This report by The Canadian Press was first published April 30, 2021.

© Virden Empire-Advance

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