WHO prepares to respond to new novel flu virus

Flu experts with the World Health Organization are gearing up their response planning in response to the detection of an odd new flu virus.

The virus is currently moving from pigs to people in parts of the United States. The virus is known as influenza A of the H3N2 subtype, which is a distant cousin of the H3N2 viruses that circulate in humans, Today Online reports.
"(Experts are) figuring out what needs to be done if the virus continues to spread and a global response is required," Keiji Fukuda, the assistant director-general for Health Security and Environment, said, according to the Toronto Star.

The virus was first spotted on July 10 and since that time cases have been confirmed in Maine, Indiana, Pennsylvania and Iowa.

Most of the infected were children under the age of 10, except for one 58-year-old adult.

Malik Peiris, the chairman of the Department of Microbiology at the University of Hong Kong, said exposure to contemporary H3N2 viruses might provide some protection against these swine viruses.

"It is important to see the serological data to see how much vulnerability or susceptibility there is in the human population," Peiris said, according to Today Online.

The WHO's desire is to be ready without causing alarm comes after its failure to communicate uncertainties about the 2009 H1N1 swine flu pandemic. Critics of the way the organization handled the pandemic contend that the WHO created panic about the swine flu virus, which turned out to be only moderate in its effect. The panic caused governments to stockpile vaccines that went unused.