New swine flu strain with 'pandemic potential' identified in China

Modesto Morganelli
Luglio 1, 2020

Meanwhile, according to scientists, the new strain of flu identified in China is carried by pigs and can infect humans. The G4 EA H1N1 strain was found to be highly infectious, replicating in human cells and causing more serious symptoms in ferrets than other viruses.

The scientists said two recent cases of G4 virus infection, reported in 2016 and 2019, were of a 46- and a nine-year-old, respectively. Therefore, "It's necessary to strengthen the surveillance" of pigs in China for influenza viruses, says Sun, also at CAU. In their paper that was published in the journal Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences, the scientists suggested that measures to control the virus in pigs, and the close monitoring of swine industry workers should be swiftly implemented.

"Such infectivity greatly enhances the opportunity for virus adaptation in humans and raises concerns for the possible generation of pandemic viruses", authors of a new study explained.

"The Department of Agriculture through the Bureau of Animal industry (BAI) reminds the general public to report any unusual pig mortalities in your farm", DA Assistant Secretary Noel Reyes said in a virtual press briefing on Tuesday.

The researchers called for close monitoring of the new strain. "There's no evidence that G4 is circulating in humans".

"We just do not know a pandemic is going to occur until the damn thing occurs", said Robert Webster, an influenza investigator who recently retired from St. Jude Children's Research Hospital.

The last pandemic that humanity faced before the current wave of coronavirus was swine flu in 2009, which started in Mexico.

The tests also showed that any pre-existing immunity to other flu viruses, like the seasonal flu, didn't help in protecting against G4. "But we must not lose sight of potentially risky new viruses", Kin-Chow Chang of Nottingham University in the United Kingdom who was also not involved in the research tells the BBC.

While the virus is not able to spread from person to person, the researchers were anxious because it continues to circulate through pig populations. There was also evidence that the virus could be transmitted through aerosols.

World Health Organization (WHO) spokesman Christian Lindmeier said that the WHO will read the study carefully, and that it was important to collaborate on findings and keep tabs on animal populations.

The WHO official continued, "It also highlights that we can not let down our guard on influenza; we need to be vigilant and continue surveillance even during the COVID-19 pandemic".

"What the paper does do is something important for the epidemiological community: it points to a virus that we need to be keeping a careful eye on", Bergstrom said.

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