Second pandemic fears as new virus emerges in China

Swine flu with ‘human pandemic potential’ found in China

Chinese researchers have discovered a new type of swine flu that can infect humans and has the potential to cause a future pandemic, according to a study released on Monday. "The likelihood that this particular variant is going to cause a pandemic is low", says Martha Nelson, an evolutionary biologist at the U.S. National Institutes of Health's Fogarty International Center who studies pig influenza viruses in the United States and their spread to humans.

Robert Webster, an influenza investigator, told Science magazine it's "a guessing game" if the new virus will evolve to transmit between humans. He went on to say that the virus is not an immediate threat but "We should not ignore it".

Researchers found evidence of recent infections of the new virus in abattoir and swine industry workers in China. There is also the fact that it is new and therefore people will have little to no immunity.

"It would make sense to continue to monitor this closely, and to make preparations for a vaccine for this strain".

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.

Iran Issues Arrest Warrant for Donald Trump Over Soleimani Drone Strike
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"Of concern is that swine workers show elevated seroprevalence for G4 virus", they wrote. The only good news thus far - it has yet to show that it can jump from human-to-human.

Nelson added to Science that given the warning, it would be ideal to produce a human G4 vaccine as the world still needs to be vigilant on other pandemics besides COVID-19.

Researchers found that G4 viruses were able to bind to human receptors, and could replicate themselves in the cells in human airways. China has the largest pig population in the world. Moreover, ferrets that were infected with G4 spread the virus to healthy ferrets similarly to how humans spread influenza viruses among one another. China had already recorded a case where both coronavirus and swine flu viruses were found in a patient's body, making it extremely challenging for doctors to diagnose the symptoms.

While scientists say it doesn't now pose an immediate threat, "we should not ignore it".

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