Source of new flu virus on Canada farm unclear

Wed Jul 8, 2009 5:36pm EDT
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By Rod Nickel

SASKATOON, Saskatchewan (Reuters) - Canadian officials don't know how two Canadian hog farm workers contracted a new flu virus, as the pigs tested so far on the farm where they work have demonstrated a common flu strain, not the new virus.

The new virus, which Canadian officials announced on Tuesday and have reported to the World Health Organization, contains genes from a seasonal human H1N1 flu strain and a flu virus common in the swine population called triple reassortant H3N2.

The virus is not connected to the new H1N1 strain that has killed 429 people worldwide.

"(The new virus) causes some concern because if it came from pigs, which we don't know, it fuels the fire for people who view the pig as a mixing vessel (for flu viruses)," said Dr. Keith Campbell, national manager of animal biosecurity for the Canadian Food Inspection Agency.

He was speaking at a conference in the western province of Saskatchewan hosted by the newly formed Canadian Swine Health Board.

Campbell declined to speculate on other potential sources of the new flu virus.

"For my purposes, (the source) is not that important, but if I'm a pig producer, I don't want people to think it came from pigs."

Saskatchewan animal health officials have tested only a fraction of the 15,000 to 20,000 pigs on a corporate farm in Saskatchewan where the workers are employed.   Continued...