Iowa Children With Novel Swine Flu Virus Prompt Search for Possible Spread

A new swine-flu variant infected three children in Iowa, spurring a search for more cases that may signal whether the virus is spreading easily among people.

The cases occurred over the past three weeks, causing a “mild” respiratory illness with fever, the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention said in a report today. All three children were in contact with one another, and none had a known recent exposure to pigs, the Atlanta-based agency said.

No more infections with the virus, dubbed S-OtrH3N2, have been found among Iowans and there is no evidence of sustained human-to-human transmission, the CDC said. Surveillance is ongoing, it said. Iowa is the biggest U.S. hog-raising state. Scientists around the world are searching for novel flu viruses to get a jump on ones with pandemic potential.

Doctors in the U.S. discovered a new strain of H1N1 swine influenza in patients in California and Texas in April 2009. That virus eventually spread globally, sparking the first flu pandemic in 41 years. The S-OtrH3N2 strain contains one gene from the H1N1 pandemic virus and genes from influenza viruses circulating among North American swine, the CDC said today.

At least seven other people have been infected with the new swine-flu variant this year -- with three cases in Pennsylvania, two in Maine and two in Indiana, the CDC said.

A sample of the S-OtrH3N2 virus suitable for use in human vaccine production has been developed and sent to drugmakers, CDC said. It’s “part of routine preparedness measures to counter possible pandemic threats posed by novel influenza viruses in the event that they gain the ability to spread easily from person to person,” the agency said.

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