MINNEAPOLIS (WCCO) — Disease specialists are carefully monitoring the case of a Minnesota infant who developed a unique type of H1N1.
It’s called the H1N2 virus and it’s only the second case ever detected anywhere.
The Minnesota Department of Health is minimizing the threat but at the same time, they are saying this is an example of how difficult the flu virus is to pin down. That is also why the threat is always there that a new deadly strain can always emerge.
The H1N2 virus is common in pigs in the Upper Midwest. Until this year, only one case had been ever known to occur in humans and that was in 2007 in Michigan.
This latest case occurred in a Minnesota infant in October. The infant had no direct contact with swine and neither did anyone in his family. That means the case represents a mutation of the flu virus.
“Typically influenzas change a little bit,” Dr. Aaron DeVries of the Mn. Department of Health said. “When the virus changes substantially, that is when a pandemic can occur and that is what happened in 2009.”
The CDC estimates that in 2009 as many as 6,000 people died in the United States in a seven-month period from the H1N1 virus.
Scientists finally developed a vaccine — one that is included in the current flu shot. But scientists acknowledge if a new deadly strain emerged it would once again likely take a long time for an effective vaccine to be developed.
“We do need a better vaccine and a better mechanism to rapidly develop vaccines,” Dr. DeVries said.
The current flu shot does not protect you against the H1N2 virus. But the Minnesota Department of Health says they do not think this strain of H1N2 is a serious threat, because the infant recovered quickly and no one around him got sick — suggesting it does not spread easily.