May 27, 2009 / 3:38 PM / 10 years ago

More human-to-pig flu transmission seen likely

PARIS (Reuters) - More cases of humans transmitting the H1N1 flu strain to pigs are likely to occur, but will not be a major concern as swine are not severely affected by the virus, the World Organization for Animal Health said Wednesday.

Canadian health officials said on May 2 a herd of swine in the western province of Alberta had caught the virus from a carpenter who had traveled to Mexico, the epicenter of the H1N1 flu outbreak that has spread to 46 countries.

It is the only reported case of the virus being transmitted from a human to a pig in the world. “We would not be surprised if we have other cases like this in other countries,” OIE Director General Bernard Vallat told a news conference at the organization’s general assembly in Paris.

“But it is not a problem because we know pigs are not a big player in the epidemiological spread of the disease.”

The new H1N1 virus has so far infected nearly 13,000 people and killed 92 around the globe, according to the World Health Organization.

Vallat reiterated flu viruses easily circulate between species, especially when strains are mixed. The new H1N1 virus, popularly known as “swine flu,” has human, bird as well as pig origins.

The OIE, an intergovernmental organization of 174 member states, has often stressed there was no proof so far of transmission from pig to human. It was among the biggest opponents against the strain being called “swine flu.”

The World Health Organization has also ruled out any risk of infection from consuming pork, saying the H1N1 flu had not been shown to be transmissible to people through eating properly handled and prepared pork, or other products derived from pigs.

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