Washington, February 12 : University of Alberta researchers have called for the monitoring of workers on pig farms as part of influenza pandemic preparedness, saying that a child was diagnosed with swine flu in 2006 on a communal farm in Canada.
The researchers say that the fact that the seven-month-old boy made a full recovery is not enough to appease them because there are evidence that the virus had spread to other members of the multi-family community, even though they demonstrated mild or no apparent illness.
It is also well-known that avian and swine strains of flu can spread to humans, with avian strains appearing to be more dangerous than swine strains.
The research team has revealed that 54 of the 90 people on the farm were tested for positivity to the flu strain, though to be of swine origin.
They say that besides the baby boy, four of seven other household members and four of 46 other people living on the farm tested positive. The strain of flu was also detected in one of 10 young pigs on the farm, they add.
The researchers say that the child apparently had no direct contact with the swine.
"The concern is that swine viral strains could adapt into a form that results in efficient human-to-human transmission," said Dr. Joan L. Robinson, a professor at the University of Alberta in Edmonton, Canada, and a pediatrician at the Stollery Children's Hospital.
She further said that swine flu in humans was "under-recognized in Canada, but it has the capacity to become a problem."
"Early recognition that swine strains are becoming more virulent might expedite both implementation of ideal infection control precautions for symptomatic cases and vaccine development," she added.
Pointing out that no health program targeting swine workers was existence at present, Dr. Robinson said that rather than workers on livestock farms being responsible for recognizing their own flu symptoms, there should be a public health program in place that leads to specific measures if an unexpected number or severity of cases of flu-like illness occur in swine workers.
The study has been published in the journal Emerging Infectious Diseases.