Brazilian woman dies of SWINE FLU: Fatality sparks terror and CDC investigation
US health chiefs are investigating the death of a Brazilian woman who became a rare victim of swine flu.
Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) officials plan to probe samples collected from the patient, 42, who died from an H1N1 variant spreading in pigs.
Her death earlier last month has sparked concern because she had no direct contact with pigs — which may signal onward transmission from someone else.
The woman had two close contacts who worked at a nearby farm, but both tested negative for influenza and never had respiratory symptoms.
The World Health Organization (WHO) – which is collaborating with the CDC on the case – said the risk to the public was still ‘low’ and that there was ‘no evidence’ of onward transmission.
Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) officials plan to probe samples collected from the patient, 42, who died from an H1N1 variant spreading in pigs (stock image)
Occasional spillovers of H1N1 swine flu are recorded every year in the US, normally linked to agricultural workers or fairs, but these rarely prove fatal.
There were six cases recorded last year, with the most recent being registered in September at a fairground in Michigan. In this case, the patient had come into contact with an infected pig.
Scientists are concerned that the next pandemic could come from flu viruses — such as H1N1 — which can be spread by pigs.
In 2009 the world faced a swine flu pandemic after an H1N1 subtype killed up to 575,000 people globally.
Since the outbreak there have been sporadic fatalities linked to swine flu jumping from pigs to humans.
Recent deaths have been sporadic and rare. A fatality was reported in Vietnam in 2019 in a 37-year-old woman, which prompted authorities to put 40 people into quarantine.
The case in Brazil was spotted in the southern state of Parana with the woman dying two days after she was hospitalized.
The individual was reported as having developed a fever, headache, sore throat and abdominal pain on May 1 this year.
She was hospitalized on May 3 with an acute respiratory infection and the following day shifted to intensive care. She died on May 5.
Brazil first notified the WHO of the case on June 7, after testing showed her illness was caused by a subtype of H1N1 linked to infections in pigs.
It was not clear how the patient became infected, although investigators have focused on two close contacts that worked at a nearby pig farm.
A spokesman for the WHO said: ‘Based on the information currently available, the WHO considers this is a sporadic case, and there is no evidence of person-to-person transmission of this event.
‘The likelihood of community-level spread among humans and/or international disease spread through humans is low.’
A spokesman for the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) added: ‘Given the severity of illness of the recent human cases, CDC has also been discussing with partners the feasibility of increasing surveillance efforts among severely ill persons in the ICU during the summer months, when seasonal influenza activity is otherwise low.’
Most people who catch swine flu face a mild illness that clears up on its own, doctors say.
But children under five years, older adults and those with underlying conditions were particularly at risk from the virus because they tended to have weaker or immature immune systems.
The virus is able to jump from pigs to humans with very few tweaks because both have similar receptors on their cells for the virus to bind to.