Recent reports of another new strain of flu that people can contract from pigs has The World Health Organisation in a bit of a dilemma. According to Dr. Keiji Fukuda, assistant director-general for health, security and environment at the WHO, so far the only confirmed cases are in the United States, specifically Pennsylvania, Indiana, Iowa and Maine, but they are watching very closely for indications that it may be spreading.
At the last reports, only ten cases had been confirmed, the first in July of this year. All except one were in children under ten, with the exception being a 58-year-old. The virus has been identified as distantly related to the H3N2 viruses that were circulating among humans in the 1990’s, and the feeling at present is that most adults will already have some immunity to the new strain.
The WHO came under severe criticism from European officials in 2009 for labeling the H1N1 virus a ‘pandemic’ when outbreaks first occurred, rousing great alarm and much stockpiling of vaccines, only to find that the danger was considerably overrated. The organisation is treading carefully in this flu season. Researchers are hard at work, trying to figure out how much immunity the general population may have to the as yet unnamed virus.
If most people have antibodies already in their systems, there won’t be much danger from this swine-originating virus, and it will probably be confined to small groups of young children who have little immunity to anything, according to a flu expert at the University of Michigan, Dr. Arnold Monto.
However, Dr. Fukuda warns that if the virus continues to spread, even if only in children, there’s no reason it can’t cross U.S. borders.