You may remember “swine flu” as the 2009 H1N1 virus, which sent people out for hand sanitizer in droves and avoiding anyone who was coughing and sneezing. No one actually caught it from a pig; it’s transmitted from person to person. But on Friday, the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention reports on two children who were indeed sickened by a flu virus that originated from pigs.
The CDC report “describes two cases of febrile respiratory illness caused by swine-origin influenza A (H3N2) viruses identified on August 19 and August 26.” Researchers also discovered that the virus that sickened the children had a genetic component of the 2009 H1N1 flu virus that was incorrectly tagged as a swine flu. Transmission of the flu from pigs to humans is rare, but it does happen.
Don’t panic, though: CDC officials say that this is a rare occurrence and that the virus is not at all likely to spread.
"It’s a biological freak. It is not a harbinger of things to come," said Dr. William Schaffner, professor and chairman of the Department of Preventive Medicine at Vanderbilt University School of Medicine.
In Indiana, a 5-year-old boy who had gotten an influenza vaccine in September started showing unusual symptoms in July: fever, cough, diarrhea, sore throat and shortness of breath. He went to a local emergency department and was discharged but returned the following day, when he was hospitalized for treatment of multiple chronic health conditions that had gotten worse. He tested positive for a swine-origin influenza A virus and has since recovered.
Although the boy hadn’t had direct contact with a pig, one of his caretakers reportedly did have direct contact with swine who didn’t show flu symptoms in the weeks before the boy had gotten sick. But the child’s family, caretaker and other close contacts did not get sick, according to the report.