The UK’s first human case of swine flu strain H1N2, very similar to what has been circulating in pigs, has been detected, the UK Health Security Agency said on Monday.
Routine surveillance in general practitioner surgeries picked up the case after the person suffered a mild illness.
The UKHSA said it is now carrying out contact tracing to prevent further spread of the virus.
It is not known at this stage how transmissible the strain is or if there could be other cases in the UK.
It is also too early to say if the strain could have pandemic potential.
The UKHSA has notified the World Health Organisation of the latest case.
There have been about 50 reported human cases worldwide of the H1N2 virus since 2005, none of them related genetically to this strain.
The person involved is not known to have worked with pigs and has fully recovered.
The case was detected as part of routine national flu surveillance undertaken by UKHSA and the Royal College of GPs, which was in place even before the COVID-19 pandemic.
The patient was tested by their GP in North Yorkshire after experiencing respiratory symptoms.
The strain was identified via Polymerase Chain Reaction testing and genome sequencing.
The UKHSA said people with respiratory symptoms should continue to follow the existing guidance, avoiding contact with other people while suffering symptoms and taking particular care around vulnerable people and the elderly.
It said it was “monitoring the situation closely and is taking steps to increase surveillance within existing programmes involving GP surgeries and hospitals in parts of North Yorkshire.
“To assist in the detection of cases and assessment of transmission, those people who are contacted and asked to do the test are encouraged to do so.’’
Meera Chand, incident director at the UKHSA, said, “It is thanks to routine flu surveillance and genome sequencing that we have been able to detect this virus.
“This is the first time we have detected this virus in humans in the UK, though it is very similar to viruses that have been detected in pigs.
“We are working rapidly to trace close contacts and reduce any potential spread.
“In accordance with established protocols, investigations are underway to learn how the individual acquired the infection and to assess whether there are any further associated cases.’’
Chief veterinary officer, Christine Middlemiss, said, “We know that some diseases of animals can be transferred to humans, which is why high standards of animal health, welfare and biosecurity are so important.
Based on early information, the UKHSA said the strain detected in the UK differs from recent human cases of H1N2 elsewhere in the world but is similar to viruses in UK pigs.
In 2009, there was a pandemic in humans caused by flu strain H1N1, commonly referred to as swine flu.