China: New Swine Flu Strain Has “Pandemic Potential”
Yahoo! News reports that researchers from Chinese universities and China's Center for Disease Control and Prevention, have discovered a new kind of swine flu that has the potential to cause a pandemic.
- The researchers published these findings in the Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences of the United States of America, an American publication.
- The virus, named G4, is genetically descended from the H1N1 strain that triggered a pandemic in 2009.
- The authors explain that it has “all the essential hallmarks of being highly adapted to infect humans.”
- Researchers took 30,000 nasal swabs from pigs in ten different Chinese slaughterhouses as well as a veterinary hospital from 2011 to 2018. They isolated 179 different swine flu viruses, including G4. Most have been dominant among the swine since 2016.
- Researchers then experimented on ferrets, who often exhibit symptoms similar to humans when infected with flu viruses. They observed that the G4 virus was highly contagious and that immunity to seasonal flu provided no protection against G4.
- Blood tests indicate that 10.4% of swine workers were already infected. Up to 4.4% of the general population also seemed to have been exposed.
- Yahoo! News notes that “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.”
- “It is of concern that human infection of G4 virus will further human adaptation and increase the risk of a human pandemic,” researchers wrote.
When asked about the G4 virus on June 30, Chinese foreign ministry spokesman Zhao Lijian told a regular press briefing that China “has been paying close attention to its development” and will take all necessary action to prevent the virus’s spread.