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'Novel' swine flu virus sickens Pennsylvania child in 1st case of the year

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A child in Pennsylvania caught a case of swine flu after being in contact with pigs, health officials reported Friday (March 29).

The infection marks the first human case of swine flu flagged in the U.S. so far this year, the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) reported in its Weekly U.S. Influenza Surveillance Report.

The infection, initially detected by the Pennsylvania Department of Health, was caused by a "novel" iNFLuenza A virus, one of the major types of flu virus. The detected virus belongs to a known subtype of iNFLuenza A that regularly infects pigs, called H1N2, but it's a newly identified strain. Sporadically, swine flu viruses like H1N2 can jump into humans, and when they do, they're known as "variant" iNFLuenza viruses.

Human infections with variant flu viruses most often happen in people with recent exposure to infected pigs. For instance, it's thought that sick pigs may cough or sneeze droplets containing virus into the air, where they can then be inhaled by people or deposited on surfaces that people then touch. In this recent case, local health officials found that the patient had "swine contact prior to their illness onset." In an emailed statement, the CDC added that the infected person lives near a pig farm in Pennsylvania.

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The infected child started receiving medical care for the infection on March 9, was ultimately hospitalized and has since recovered. There is no evidence that the infection spread from the infected person to additional people, the CDC reported, although "the investigation is ongoing."

Health officials did report that two of the patient's close contacts developed mild illness and had been in contact with pigs before the patient fell ill. However, the report doesn't specify if these two individuals are also suspected of experiencing swine flu.

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