Monitoring of human swine influenza virus

Hong Kong (HKSAR) - A spokesman for the Department of Health (DH) today (November 23) said that the department's Public Health Laboratory Service Branch (PHLSB) had detected one human swine influenza (HSI) virus which had the same mutation as the one detected in Norway recently. Following Norway's announcement and obtaining information about the nature of the mutation, DH examined the genetic sequence of HSI viruses that it had tested in its monitoring system. The spokesman said that out of the 123 sequences studied, one sample showed the same mutation as the Norway strain.

Mutations are frequently encountered in influenza viruses. According to the World Health Organization (WHO), the same mutation of the virus has been found in other countries, including Brazil, China, Japan, Mexico, Ukraine and the United States, the spokesman said. He added that no evidence suggested that these mutations were leading to an unusual increase in the number of HSI infections or a greater number of severe or fatal cases.

The virus was isolated from the specimen taken from a one-year-old boy who developed flu-like symptoms on July 22. His respiratory specimen taken on July 25 tested positive for HSI. He was admitted to Prince of Wales Hospital on July 25 and discharged on July 28.

The boy recovered completely and his family members were asymptomatic. "The virus with this mutation remained sensitive to antiviral drugs, oseltamivir (Tamiflu) and zanamivir (Relenza). "According to the World Health Organization, studies showed that the currently available pandemic vaccines conferred protection," the spokesman said.

The PHLSB will closely monitor influenza viruses worldwide and remain vigilant for any further changes in the virus that may have public health significance.

Published on: 2009-11-23

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