New Strain Of Influenza Virus Found In Pigs In China Can Possibly Be Transmitted To Humans — Say Scientists
Scientists in China have identified a new strain of flu that has the potential to become a pandemic.
Named G4, it is genetically descended from the H1N1 strain that caused a pandemic in 2009.
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.
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.
As it’s new, people could have little or no immunity to the virus.
From 2011 to 2018, researchers took 30,000 nasal swabs from pigs in slaughterhouses in 10 Chinese provinces and in a veterinary hospital, allowing them to isolate 179 swine flu viruses.
The majority were of a new kind, which has been dominant among pigs since 2016.
The researchers then carried out various experiments including on ferrets, which are widely used in flu studies because they experience similar symptoms to humans, principally fever, coughing and sneezing.
According to blood tests, which showed antibodies created by exposure to the virus, 10.4% of swine workers had already been infected.
The tests showed that as many as 4.4% of the general population also appeared to have been exposed.
The virus has therefore already passed from animals to humans but there is no evidence yet that it can be passed from human to human, the scientists’ main worry.
The researcher wrote: “It is of concern that human infection of G4 virus will further human adaptation and increase the risk of a human pandemic.”
They called for urgent measures to monitor people working with pigs.