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

Henrietta Strickland
July 1, 2020

Professor Kin-Cho Chang, who works at the University of Nottingham, commented: "Right now, our focus is on the coronavirus, as it should be". Their investigations revealed that exposure to seasonal flu doesn't give humans immunity to the G4 virus, meaning prevention is key as the severity of illness suffered by those who caught it would depend on their ability to launch an effective immune response, something that has been problematic for patients infected with the novel coronavirus Covid-19. Therefore, "It's necessary to strengthen the surveillance" of pigs in China for influenza viruses, says Sun, also at CAU.

The so-called G4 virus emerged in recent years and is genetically descended from the H1N1 strain that led to a pandemic in 2009.

The study said pigs were considered important "mixing vessels" for the generation of pandemic influenza viruses and called for "systematic surveillance" of the problem. "It may be that with further change in the virus it could become more aggressive in people much as SARS-CoV-2 has done", Brown tells The New York Times in an email.

A virus expert is urging people to remain alert, but not alarmed after it was revealed yesterday a new flu virus in China posed a risk of another pandemic. G4 shows "all the essential hallmarks of a candidate pandemic virus", said the authors of the study.

Researchers gained the information after studying pigs from 2011 to 2018.

Their peer-reviewed study, published this week in the US journal Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences, concluded that humans do not have immunity to the swine-flu strain, which the authors labeled G4 EA H1N1.

Over seven years, they collected more than 30,000 nasal swab samples and identified 179 different swine flu viruses.

When multiple strains of influenza viruses infect the same pig, they can easily swap genes, a process known as "reassortment".

It added that a meeting with Philippine Inter-Agency Committee on Zoonoses will be held this week to come up with a framework in managing emerging diseases that affect animals and humans.

There have been cases of swine workers contracting G4 from pigs, but there is no evidence of human-to-human transmission yet. "G4 virus has shown a sharp increase since 2016, and is the predominant genotype in circulation in pigs detected across at least 10 provinces", they write.

"If it does? We know how to make vaccines for influenza viruses".

"It also highlights we can not let our guard down on influenza and need to be vigilant and continue surveillance even in the coronavirus pandemic", said Lindmeier.

This means that people who handle swines, especially in the farming industry, are more susceptible to contracting the virus than others.

Other reports by Click Lancashire

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