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SI Virus Discovered in Mainland Pigs at HK Abattoir

by 5m Editor
17 November 2011, at 9:06am

HONG KONG - A new swine flu virus with human genes has again been found in mainland pigs at a Hong Kong slaughterhouse.

But the swine flu H3N2 is unlikely to cause a "major" human health risk, the Centre for Food Safety said.

Fifteen pigs were found infected with "essentially a swine influenza H3N2 virus that has picked up some genes of human swine influenza virus," the center said. They were detected out of 1,000 samples taken from August to mid-October.

The same flu subtype was also found in the last round of surveillance programs, from May to July, in 16 pigs.

According to The Standard, in both instances, the department said it had notified mainland authorities.

There have been no recent reports of such H3N2-infected swine in Guangdong province, however.

Flu expert Malik Peiris said the H3N2 subtype seen in the pigs is not the same swine-originated new H3N2 that has infected seven people in the United States since July.

The US Centers for Disease Control and Prevention said earlier that while the infections have been mainly mild, they are being closely monitored.

Dr Nancy Cox, head of the Atlanta-based agency's influenza division, said a seed strain for a vaccine that would protect against the virus has already been developed and given to manufacturers.

The World Health Organization also said that for pandemic preparedness purposes, it has developed and made available two candidate vaccine viruses.

All pigs coming from the mainland are slaughtered centrally in the Sheung Shui slaughterhouse before they are taken to Hong Kong markets.

A spokesman for the Food and Environmental Hygiene Department said the infected pigs were destroyed.

However, abattoir workers have not been checked for the presence of the virus, the spokesman revealed.

"There is no routine check of influenza antibody level in slaughterhouse staff," he said, in response to questions from The Standard.

But staff are advised to wear face masks and gloves while on duty, and to observe personal hygiene.

Mr Peiris said human flu viruses cross to pigs occasionally, and vice versa.

"This one [H3N2] is a pandemic reassorted virus," he said, adding it was derived from the 2004-5 human flu, so most of the population would have immunity from it, except the very young children.

"There is really no risk of acquiring viruses from eating pork meat."

Further Reading

- Find out more information on Swine Influenza Virus (SI) by clicking here.