Swine flu strain with 'human pandemic potential' found increasingly in China

WION Web Team Beijing, China Jun 30, 2020, 06.22 AM(IST)

Nasal swabs from more than 30,000 Chinese pigs over 7 years found an increase in an avianlike influenza virus that has swapped genes from several strains. Photograph:( AFP )

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A bad new strain of influenza is among the top disease threats that experts are watching for, even as the world attempts to bring to an end the current coronavirus pandemic.

Chinese researchers have reportedly identified a new strain of the swine flu that has the potential to become a pandemic.

It emerged recently and is carried by pigs, but can infect humans, they say.

The researchers are concerned that it could mutate further so that it can spread easily from person to person, and trigger a global outbreak.

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While it is not an immediate problem, they say, it has "all the hallmarks" of being highly adapted to infect humans and needs close monitoring.

Given that it’s a new development, people will likely have little to no immunity.

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The scientists write in the journal Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences that measures to control the virus in pigs, and the close monitoring of swine industry workers, should be swiftly implemented.

Professor Kin-Chow Chang and his colleagues at Nottingham University say they are closely monitoring this new strain, which they are calling G4 EA H1N1.

The new strain, of which they found evidence among people who work in Chinese slaughterhouses, can grow and multiply in the cells lining human airways.

Kin-Chow told the BBC: “Right we are distracted with coronavirus, and rightly so. But we must not lose sight of potentially dangerous new viruses.”

A bad new strain of influenza is among the top disease threats that experts are watching for, even as the world attempts to bring to an end the current coronavirus pandemic.

The last swine flu pandemic began in Mexico in 2009 but was not as deadly as initially feared. Many older people had some immunity to it because it was similar to older strains.

Robert Webster, an influenza investigator, told Science magazine it’s “a guessing game” if the new virus will evolve to transmit between humans.

“We just do not know a pandemic is going to occur until the d--n thing occurs,” he said. “Will this one do it? God knows.”