Possible new human flu virus low risk, US health officials say

This article is over 6 months old

Routine test of mosquitoes and eggs in US has so far found no serious virus-carrying insects in 84% of samples

US health officials have said a risk of the yet-to-be-named new human infection was low but that it could have repercussions for global surveillance.

The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention has been testing a variant of the flu virus, which was not seen in humans before, in lab animals for the past three years.

It was detected in samples taken from patients around the world, mostly Asia and Africa, this month.

Although it is still considered a “global public health concern”, the CDC’s director, Dr Robert Redfield, said at a news conference the risk of infection from it was low.

The US is believed to have been an early adopter of the new virus among several viruses not known to be transmitted to humans. The agency has started tests in mosquitoes and eggs, and has so far found no serious virus-carrying insects in 84% of samples.

Healthcare workers wearing masks as they are treated at a hospital in the city of Niamey in January. Photograph: KARIM JAAFAR/AFP/Getty Images

But that may change, as fewer testing sites have emerged in the last week.

“It is our understanding that this new virus is spreading rapidly in the world, and therefore we will be able to detect more in the coming days and weeks,” Redfield said.

In the first cases of human infection confirmed in the US this year, one patient was previously healthy. Redfield said “it is a fear and we should remain that way” in reporting cases, especially if they were from one country in the world.

As of Thursday, close to 100 people had been tested, with most of them coming from Asia, Africa, Europe and Latin America.

The CDC still does not know how this case of human infection began, Redfield said. He said it was known that the latest variant of the flu had been circulating in the Arabian peninsula and also being seen in more than 60 other countries.

Meanwhile, the first case in Russia has been identified.

As of Wednesday, 17 people had been confirmed with the infection by other countries, although the CDC said its laboratory test for the virus was normal for seasonal flu.

Officials said it could take anywhere from two to eight weeks for testing to be completed in the US.

The World Health Organization said in Geneva it was “in close communication” with CDC.

Leave a Comment