Argentine health authorities have detected human-to-swine transmission of the A/H1N1 influenza virus in a farm in the province of Buenos Aires, it was officially reported Thursday.
This would be the second case reported in the world since the outbreak of the A/influenza in North America and the detection of such a situation in a pig farm in Canada last May.
Argentina’s Health Ministry announced Thursday there are 23 lethal victims of Influenza A/H1N1 and a total of 1,488 cases. A pregnant woman died after contracting the virus in Buenos Aires province. The 24-year-old woman had been hospitalized at the Güemes clinic in the district of Luján, after she showed symptoms of the illness.
Media in Buenos Aires reported that another pregnant woman died. The 19-year-old woman had been hospitalized in Larcade Hospital in San Martin district and died on Tuesday morning,
Malbrán Institute is analyzing her test to confirm if she died of H1N1 virus. Argentina in the Southern hemisphere is in the middle of winter and the normal seasonal flu epidemics.
The human strain of the virus A/H1N1 was detected by Argentina’s Animal Health, SENASA, authorities “in the framework of epidemiology vigilance activities permanently displayed” said the organization in its internet portal.
The infected swine “belonged to a pig farm in the province of Buenos Aires”, and once detected “the farm was interdicted to follow the evolution of the disease and determine what actions to take”.
“The suspicion of the disease presence was confirmed by a laboratory analysis”, added SENASA before recalling that the A/virus flu “is not transmitted by consumption of pork, as was confirmed by the World Health Organization and the Food and Agricutlure Organization”.
“It is common for hogs to have flu, to the extent there is no obligation to register such cases”, Marcelo Blumfeld a member of the Argentine Infectology Society was quoted in the Buenos Aires press. He added that although initially the disease was identified as “swine flu” the truth is that “it originated in a mix of avian, swine and human viruses”.
“If the new A/flu strain is confirmed in a hog, there’s the risk of a virus combination. And although there is a barrier for contagion among different species, these barriers can be flexible, but it’s not easy”, added Blumfeld.
Meanwhile Argentina is reinforcing overwhelmed hospitals as flu cases swamp emergency rooms in and around the capital Buenos Aires.
Medical authorities suspended non-urgent surgery in many urban hospitals to free up beds for flu cases. The government also sent mobile clinics to poor neighbourhoods and dedicated one hospital in the Malvinas Argentinas municipality outside the capital exclusively to flu cases.
The H1N1 virus is spreading rapidly in an area known as the conurbano, the densely populated working class suburbs and slums that ring Buenos Aires where twelve people have died from the new flu and 111 are hospitalised, 75 of them on respirators.
“Surgeries will be rescheduled in all hospitals in the conurbano, which is where the new flu virus is circulating extensively,” the health minister of Buenos Aires province, Claudio Zin, told reporters.
“Each year 10% of the population gets the seasonal flu. If you add a similar percentage of people who are getting checked for the (new) flu, you can expect high demand at hospitals, which we have to battle.”
The country’s health minister, Graciela Ocana, recommended that Argentines allow space between each other when they line up to vote in mid-term elections on Sunday. Voting is obligatory in Argentina.