A human case of variant swine flu has been detected in central Alberta, the provincial government said Wednesday.
This is the only influenza case reported in Alberta so far this flu season, chief medical officer of health Dr. Deena Hinshaw and chief provincial veterinarian Dr. Keith Lehman said in a statement.
“The virus was detected in mid-October after an Alberta patient sought medical care with influenza-like symptoms. The patient experienced mild symptoms, was tested, and then quickly recovered.
“There is no evidence at this time that the virus has spread further,” Hinshaw said during a press conference.
Health officials, in conjunction with Alberta Agriculture, have launched a public health investigation to determine the source of the virus and to verify that no spread occurred.
“Influenza viruses that normally circulate in pigs, including H1N2, can infect people, although this is not common,” she said.
The government says it will continue working closely with Alberta Health Services, the Public Health Agency of Canada and other partners across Canada.
AHS will offer influenza testing to residents in parts of central Alberta if they are being tested for COVID-19 at an assessment centre. This testing will be optional.
Sporadic cases of H1N2 have been reported over the past decade in North America. Variant Influenza A (H1N2) is rare, with only 27 cases reported globally since 2005, and no cases in Canada prior to this one.
“All have been linked to direct or indirect contact with swine and none of the previously reported cases have caused human-to-human transmission,” Hinshaw said.
“What we’ve seen in these variant viruses in the past is that the majority of them have a direct connection with an animal, and a small number of them have a connection with somebody who’s in a household, close contact situation.”
Hinshaw said the government is “taking this seriously, as any human infection with a non-seasonal influenza virus needs to be followed up under our international obligations.
“I want to be clear, however, that there is no evidence of risk to the public. H1N2 is not a food-related illness. It is not transmissible to people through pork meat or other products that come from pigs. There is no risk associated with eating pork,” she said.
Lehman said this is a virus that “is not uncommon” with swine populations in Western Canada.
“Within Western Canada, we have routine surveillance that is undertaken for our swine farms and we tend to see roughly a range of 10 to 30 cases identified per quarter,” he said.
“Our farms tend to have very good biosecurity practices to outline measures that should be taken both while working at the farms, as well as when they depart from the farms at the end of the day, to ensure or minimize the risk of taking disease out of the farm.”