COVID tests lead to discovery of pig-based flu viruses


Mass COVID-19 testing has caught two pig-based influenza variants in Manitobans.

Provincial health and veterinary officials say there appears to be no risk to other humans, pigs don’t appear to have the disease and pork carries no risk of infection for humans.

The cases were found in early April and there have been none since.

Manitoba’s hog industry is also unaffected by the cases of H1N1 and H1N2, other than for the two individuals infected and for people who undertook extra health testing of pigs close to the people affected.

“It’s an isolated case,” Dr. Scott Zaari, Manitoba’s chief veterinary officer, said April 30, about one of the two cases.

One of the people had direct interaction with pigs, while the other had only indirect contact. Provincial officials would not offer details on where the people were apparently infected or what role they play in the hog farming industry.

Dr. Brent Roussin, Manitoba’s chief public health officer, said the cases were probably caught because of increased public concerns over flu-like symptoms due to the COVID-19 pandemic. The two people went to get COVID-19 tests after developing symptoms, then their samples were additionally screened for influenza.

Both variants are extremely rare. H1N2 is commonly found in pigs, but has only been found twice in a human in Canada, the first being a case last year in Alberta.

H1N1 is common in humans, with it being the leading strain of 2019-20, but the variant arising from contact with pigs is also rarely found.

Both human cases of the variants have recovered after suffering only mild symptoms, which did not require hospitalization.

COVID-19 tests from the areas near the human cases were tested for the influenza variants and none were found.

Pigs near the humans have also been tested and watched closely and the disease was not discovered.