Double pandemic? Experts believe new swine flu in China could wreak havoc if left unchecked

WION New Delhi, India Jun 30, 2020, 09.55 PM(IST) Edited By: Palki Sharma

Coronavirus pandemic Photograph:( IANS )

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According to a new study, Chinese pigs are getting infected by the influenza virus more frequently, with the possibility of it transmitting to humans

A new flu virus is circulating among pigs in China, while the world reels from the COVID-19 pandemic. Scientists believe that it has “pandemic potential”.

According to a new study, Chinese pigs are getting infected by the influenza virus more frequently, with the possibility of it transmitting to humans.

The virus has all the essential hallmarks to infect humans, as per information by scientists at Chinese universities and China's Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. If it were to spread among people, people would have zero immunity against it.

As part of a project to identify potential pandemic causing viruses, Chinese researchers looked at influenza viruses found in pigs from 2011 to 2018. They analysed nearly 30,000 nasal swabs taken from pigs at slaughterhouses in 10 provinces. This led to the detection of the new influenza virus. This new strain of the flu has been named G4

It is similar to the virus that caused the 2009 global Swine Flu outbreak. But, this strain is more dangerous. Like COVID-19, it can affect the human respiratory system.

400 million pigs in China

According to blood tests, nearly 10 per cent of the pig farm workers have already been infected. And, nearly five percent of the general population has been exposed to the virus. China has the largest population of pigs in the world, with over 400 million!

And, millions of Chinese live in close proximity to pigs, in farms, breeding facilities, slaughterhouses and wet markets.

Infectious disease experts have called for an immediate monitoring of people who work in the swine industry.

Carl Bergstorm - a leading biologist says, “Screening will be important, particularly if clusters of illness emerge in swine workers”.

Most influenza viruses jump from pigs to humans, but do not spread among humans. But two cases of the G4 infections have been recorded so far.

An annual flu vaccine protects Chinese from earlier known influenza viruses, which may have helped contain its spread from infected people. However, there is no evidence to show if it is effective against the G4.