There's a new strain of swine flu in China-should we worry?

Henrietta Strickland
July 3, 2020

As Common Dreams reported in March, the global coronavirus outbreak has led environmental experts to warn that humans must prioritize efforts to contain habitat destruction and the exploitation of animals to avoid another pandemic.

However, flu viruses can readily exchange segments of their genetic material (in a process known as reassortment) if two different viruses infect the same cell. Most viruses don't do this, but the flu does.

In their influenza virus surveillance of pigs from 2011 to 2018, the researchers found what they called "a recently emerged genotype 4 (G4) reassortant Eurasian avian-like (EA) H1N1 virus".

Or as Rasmussen puts it: "Yes, this virus could evolve the ability to be an efficiently transmitted human-to-human pathogen".

The Chinese-British study on the G4 virus comes as COVID-19 cases are surging in some states, and regions have been forced to roll back plans to reopen their economies.

Details: The flu's genetics include characteristics from the 2009 and 1918 flu pandemics.

The new swine flu strain found in China, according to the study published Monday in the U.S. science journal PNAS, had "all the essential hallmarks" to infect humans and raised fears over another potential pandemic. It may be transmissible from human to human, but we aren't entirely sure yet. "If we have a pandemic on top of a pandemic, that would be very scary".

Named G4, it is genetically descended from the H1N1 strain that caused a pandemic in 2009.

The Epidemiology and Surveillance Unit of the Ministry of Health said that it will closely monitor the situation and provide any updates to the public when deemed appropriate.

If a human does get this new G4 EA H1N1 virus, how severe is it?

It was noted that the frequency of positive samples, and thus the frequency of infection, had increased in recent years. "Sure, this virus meets a lot of the basic criteria but it's not for sure going to cause a hypothetical 2020 flu pandemic, or even be a dominant strain in humans". This early, he said the government should already prepare regarding the possibility this might spread.

The virus, which has been in existence already for several years in China, appears to be exhibiting "reassortment capabilities", according to Dr. Anthony Fauci, director of the National Institute of Allergy and Infectious Diseases and the nation's top infectious diseases expert.

Carl Bergstrom, a theoretical and evolutionary biologist at the University of Washington in Seattle, Washington, tweeted about his skepticism that a double pandemic of COVID-19 and influenza is imminent. There's no need to immediately start freaking out, however: While it's always a safe assumption there will be another pandemic someday, this one is not cause for concern just yet. Extreme events are often described as once in a lifetime. The professor would tell us about past influenza pandemics, including the one in 1918, and point out: we're due. Read the original article.

Other reports by Click Lancashire

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