Federal health officials are working with the Saskatchewan government to assess and monitor the public health risk posed by a new strain of influenza that has been detected in that province.
The new strain was detected in two workers on a hog farm in Saskatchewan. The workers suffered only mild illness and have recovered fully, the Public Health Agency of Canada says in a release. A third case is under investigation. Scientists at the Public Health Agency of Canada’s National Microbiology Laboratory in Winnipeg have determined that the new strain is made up of genes from human seasonal flu and swine flu viruses. It is not a new strain of the pandemic H1N1 flu virus currently circulating in Canada.
“We are working closely with the province of Saskatchewan to learn as much as we can about this new flu virus,” said Health Minister Leona Aglukkaq. “Preliminary results indicate the risk to public health is low and that Canadians who have been vaccinated against the regular, seasonal flu should have some immunity to this new flu strain.”
Initial testing of some of the pigs on the farm suggests they were infected with swine influenza A virus, a common flu found in swine herds. There is no evidence that this new human strain of the virus is present in the swine herd.
The province says it is taking precautionary action as a result of the detected virus. These measures include: heightened surveillance of humans and hogs, reinforced biosecurity on the affected hog operation, and vaccination of hog farm workers in the affected operation. A Saskatchewan government release says that in most cases, these kinds of viruses are not transmitted readily between humans, resulting in what is called a “dead end.” To date, there is no evidence that this strain has transmitted between humans.
The Canadian Food Inspection Agency (CFIA) is providing advice to the province on swine herd surveillance. CFIA is also providing further diagnostic support to the initial testing performed by the province at the national reference laboratory in Winnipeg.
“As required under the WHO’s International Health Regulations, Canada has notified the WHO about the detection of this novel influenza virus,” said Dr. David Butler Jones, Canada’s chief public health officer. “The Government of Canada remains vigilant and we will continue to keep Canadians informed of any new developments.”