The infected Brit caught swine flu at start of November

Could swine flu have been spreading in the UK for nearly a MONTH? Infected Brit caught virus at start of November

  • Health officials yesterday confirmed a Brit contracted the H1N2 swine flu strain
  • They were tested on November 9 with results confirming it on November 23
  • READ MORE: Swine flu Q+A: Everything YOU need to know about the virus

Fears that swine flu might have been spreading silently in the UK for three weeks were raised today after it was revealed that the sickened Brit was ill at the start of November.

The North Yorkshire patient, who was struck down with a strain never seen in this country before, saw their GP with cold-like symptoms on November 9.  

They were only tested for influenza through a ‘fluke’ winter surveillance scheme. 

MailOnline can disclose that H1N2 was not identified as the virus responsible until lab results came back a fortnight later.

At no point between the patient being tested and getting their result on November 23 were they made to self-isolate.  

Instead, authorities asked them to limit their contacts once the positive swab came back, as per official guidance. 

The unidentified individual, thought to be from north Yorkshire, tested positive after visiting their GP with ‘respiratory symptoms’. UK Health Security (UKHSA) bosses have yet to identify how they caught the virus. Officials are now racing to track down all contacts of the Brit, who was left battling a ‘mild’ illness

UK Health Security Agency (UKHSA) chiefs are still hunting down all contacts of the sickened Brit, who recovered fully at home.

Officials are still clueless as to how the person caught H1N2. Investigations into ‘all possible routes of transmission’ are ongoing.

MailOnline understands the Brit did not work with pigs.

Previous cases of H1N2 — spotted 50 times globally in the last two decades — have been traced back to country fairs in the US.

Experts fear it is ‘entirely possible’ the virus has been silently spreading. 

Only a fraction of patients who see their GP with respiratory symptoms, like a runny nose and cough, ever get tested. 

READ MORE: Swine flu Q&A: From tell-tale symptoms to how quickly it spreads – everything YOU need to know

The surveillance scheme that spotted the H1N2 case only includes under a third of the 6,700-plus surgeries in England and Wales.

Some patients suspected of having a respiratory virus, like the flu, will have a nasal swab taken. Complex laboratory analyses of swab samples often take around 10 days on average.

Swine flu itself can lurk in the body for days before causing tell-tale symptoms, too, experts say.

Dr Simon Clarke, a microbiologist from the University of Reading, told MailOnline: ‘It is entirely possible that it has been spreading in that time. 

‘We don’t know how efficiently or in whom, but if this strain does transmit efficiently in people then it could have begun to spread reasonably widely.’ 

Professor Gary McLean, an immunologist at London Metropolitan University, added: ‘Symptoms do not appear to be very severe and the outbreak is not unexpected. 

‘What is likely to be of more concern is how this individual in Yorkshire acquired the infection as there had been no contact with pigs.

‘This suggests transmission via another human and therefore a much larger number of infections than currently known.’

Professor James Wood, an infectious disease epidemiologist from the University of Cambridge, said: ‘The sample was reported to have been collected on November 9, now two-and-a-half weeks ago, from an individual who had no contact with pigs. 

‘If this is correct, then it is highly likely that a number of other people had also been infected.’

Brits battling ‘respiratory symptoms’, such as a runny nose, cough and sore throat, are now being urged to avoid contact with other people. Similar advice is used for Covid. 

Symptoms of swine flu — which sparked a pandemic that raced around the world in 2009 — mirror those of regular flu and Covid. 

Symptoms of swine flu — which sparked a pandemic that raced around the world in 2009 — mirror those of regular flu and Covid. But it doesn’t spread easily between humans. Most cases occur among people exposed to infected pigs, such as any visitors of country fairs and farmers. Swine flu cases surge in pigs in autumn and winter

But it doesn’t spread easily between humans. 

Most cases occur among people exposed to infected pigs, such as any visitors of country fairs and farmers. Swine flu cases surge in pigs in autumn and winter.

Deaths are rare, and the illness usually clears up in a few weeks. As well as the usual flu symptoms, some may experience diarrhoea and vomiting.

Only 50 human cases of H1N2 have been reported globally since 2005. 

But none of them have been in the UK. Equally, none are related genetically to this specific strain.

A swine flu pandemic was triggered in 2009 after a mutated version of H1N1 spilled over into humans. 

That variant, scientifically known as H1N1(pdm09), contained genetic material from viruses circulating in pigs, birds and humans.

An independent review of the UK response to the 2009 pandemic confirmed 457 deaths were caused by swine flu in the country. 

But the strain — which killed tens of thousands across the planet — has barely spread in Britain since 2019. It now circulates in humans seasonally.

The case fatality rate — the proportion of patients that died from the disease — was thought to have been around 0.02 percent. For comparison, when Covid first struck, it had a fatality rate of up to three percent. 

Seasonal flu vaccines don’t protect against swine flu. But certain groups including children and pregnant women are eligible for a jab specific to the virus. 

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