Report: How do swine flu viruses mutate?

It only takes a few mutations for a relatively harmless swine flu virus to change into something more dangerous, according to an NPR article highlighting a recent study.

The study, originally published in the Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences, showed how a Korean swine flu virus transformed into a deadly virus when given to ferrets through respiratory droplets. The virus originally infected the pigs without making them sick, according to the article.

Once the ferrets were infected, had two new mutations causing a high rate of virulence. Thankfully, the mutation has not been found in nature, just in the lab, according to the article.

It is a warning sign, however, that  viruses have the potential to change and cause a pandemic like the 2009 H1N1 outbreak that killed at least 18,500 people.

The current swine flu virus (H3N2v) that has infected almost 300 people in the U.S. is no stranger to mutation – it contains a gene from the H1N1 virus as well as other genes from swine, human and avian viruses.

However, the H3N2v virus, which is circulating in 10 U.S. states, appears to be limited to pig-to-human transmission, mainly people who have been exposed to pigs at agricultural fairs. Symptoms have been mild and include fever, sore throat, body aches and fatigue, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC).

Humans cannot get swine flu from eating properly cooked pork and pork products.

To read the full NPR article, click here.

To read the study, click here.

For the CDC page on swine flu, click here.

To read previous Neogen blog posts about swine flu, including biosecurity tips, click here.

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