According to a report from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), three cases of a new flu virus have been confirmed in children, and the World Health Organization (WHO) is already preparing a plan of attack.
The virus originated in pigs but has thus spread through human contact; it was identified as influenza A of the H3N2 subtype, which is a distant relative of the H3N2 viruses that travel between humans. It was first observed in July, and since then, 10 cases have been confirmed in Maine, Indiana, Iowa, and Pennsylvania.
All of the sufferers of the virus were under the age of 10 except one 58-year-old adult. Currently, it is believed
that as this virus is very similar to the H3N3 viruses which circulated in abundance during the 1990s, most adults over the age of 21 will have been exposed earlier and therefore already have some partial protection against this new strain.
Reports of the WHO’s preparedness for this flu follow the panic which many critics say the WHO created in 2009 over the swine flu virus, which forced governments to stockpile vaccines unnecessarily. Dr. Keiji Fukuda, assistant director-general for Health Security and Environment, stated that experts are currently "figuring out what needs to be done if the virus continues to spread and a global response is required.”
“We’re very aware that we don’t want to overplay or underplay,” Fukuda continued. “We’re trying to get that right. [We’re] trying to make sure that we’re ready to move quickly, if we have to move quickly, but also trying not to raise alarm bells.”
Exposure to current H3N2 viruses could offer some measure of protection against these newer pig-originated viruses, reported
Malik Peiris, flu expert and chairman of the Department of Microbiology at the University of Hong Kong. "It is important to see the serological data to see how much vulnerability or susceptibility there is in the human population," he stated.
Another flu expert, Dr Arnold Monto from the University of Michigan, insisted that the virus may not be terribly threatening if a major part of the human population has already built up antibodies again the virus. “If there’s a lot of immunity in the population,” said Monto, “there probably will not be any kind of extensive spread except maybe in these little clusters where you have little folks who don’t have much immunity to anything.”
Others are not so optimistic. “There’s no reason why this virus, if it continues to spread human to human, couldn’t move from country to country among young people,” said Fukuda.