The H1N1 flu virus has received a tremendous amount of news coverage (that might be the understatement of the year to date). A recent story in The News & Observer of Raleigh implied that the current virus’ ancestry could be traced to an outbreak of H3N2 flu in a Newton Grove swine herd in 1998.
However, the veterinary virologist who investigated that outbreak 11 years ago says it’s a stretch to directly associate it with the current H1N1 flu.
Dr. Gene Erickson, head of molecular diagnostics and virology at the NCDA&CS Rollins Veterinary Diagnostic Lab in Raleigh, says the novel H1N1 virus currently in the headlines did not originate in Newton Grove in 1998. “The Newton Grove virus was a double reassortment strain of H3N2 containing human and swine genes,” Erickson said. “It occurred at about the same time as a triple reassortment H3N2 virus in Texas and other states. The Texas virus contained the same internal genes — human, swine and avian — as the novel H1N1 flu. The triple reassortment H3N2 virus is an entirely different virus from the Newton Grove virus.”
There’s an awful lot of scientific lingo in Erickson’s comments, but the bottom line is that the novel H1N1 virus has a lot in common with the virus discovered in Texas swine in 1998. “Texas was the prototype because it had that particular combination of swine, human and avian genes,” Erickson said.
The novel H1N1 does not have a lot in common with the Newton Grove virus from 1998. In fact, the double reassortment H3N2 virus found in Newton Grove didn’t have enough muscle to survive and apparently died off in the herd system, Erickson said. “I tested multiple herds in that system and never found the virus again.”