China Has Discovered a New Swine Flu With ‘Pandemic Potential’

China Has Discovered a New Swine Flu With ‘Pandemic Potential’

It descends from the H1N1 strain which caused a pandemic in 2009.

With the world grappling with the COVID-19 outbreak, it doesn’t need another unpleasant situation to deal with. However, scientists in China have identified a new strain of swine flu that has the potential to trigger a pandemic. The new strain of flu is contagious amongst pigs and could infect humans.

Dubbed ‘G4’, it descends from the H1N1 strain that emerged in 2009 and caused a pandemic.

It possesses “all the essential hallmarks of being highly adapted to infect humans”, say the authors, scientists at Chinese universities and China’s Centre for Disease Control and Prevention.

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How serious is the new swine flu discovered in China?

Image credit: Pikist

Between 2011 and 2018, researchers analysed 30,000 nasal swabs from pigs in 10 Chinese provinces and regions. The swabs yielded 179 swine influenza viruses, and found that the G4 virus was dominant in pigs since 2016.

They carried out further experiments – including on ferrets. Ferrets as models for influenza virus transmission studies is common as they exhibit most of the human-like symptoms. It was observed that G4 is highly infectious. It replicates in human cells and causes more serious symptoms in ferrets than other viruses. 

In addition, antibody blood tests showed that 10.4 percent of swine workers had already been infected. This shows that the virus is zoonotic and has already passed from animals to humans.

However, there is no conclusive evidence that there is a possibility of human-to-human transmission. Despite the fact, scientists are alarmed as it is newly discovered, and the human race could have little or no immunity to the virus.  Any immunity humans gain from exposure to seasonal flu does not defend them from the novel virus.

“It is of concern that human infection of G4 virus will further human adaptation and increase the risk of a human pandemic,” the researchers wrote.

While the new swine flu in China does not pose an imminent threat, a World Health Organisation spokesperson reminded us not to let our guards down and continue surveillance even in the coronavirus pandemic.

Till date, there are a total of 10,809,992 COVID-19 cases globally and the death toll from the virus is at 519,050.

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Ifah Sakinah
Ifah Sakinah

Sakinah has a discerning palate and an innate desire to satisfy her inner curiosity. While she hasn't been everywhere, it's definitely on her list.


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