New swine flu virus with pandemic potential discovered in China

Influenza-Virus-H1N1-Swine-Flu-shut

More than one in five pig farmers aged between 18 and 35 tested positive for the G4 EA H1N1 virus during recent surveillance, the scientists said.

A NEW flu strain with "pandemic potential" has been identified in China. Blood tests showed 10.4% of swine workers had already been infected.

Researchers from China and the United Kingdom said the virus had "all the essential hallmarks of a candidate pandemic virus" as it can grow and multiply in human cells.

The virus was also found to have been readily transmitted between ferrets, a popular animal model used to study human influenza. Ebola, HIV, and the coronavirus itself are all examples of deadly pathogens that originated in animals.

Pigs can be farmed easily and grow fast, allowing for transplant of their hearts into humans.

According to the scientists, including those from the Chinese Center for Disease Control and Prevention, these G4 viruses bind to receptor molecules in human cells, and can replicate in the outer layer of the respiratory system.

Chinese researchers analyzed 30,000 swabs collected from pigs at slaughterhouses in 10 Chinese provinces from 2011 to 2018. The potentially unsafe strain of influenza is thought to be a blend of three flu strains and has already leapt to humans.

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Kin-Chow Chang, a professor at Nottingham University in the United Kingdom, said it hasn't posed a big threat so far.

While swine flu viruses seldom spread to humans, the occasional leap has led to incidents such as the 2009 H1N1 pandemic, which may have infected up to one-fifth of the world's population.

United Kingdom's Nottingham University's Professor Kin-Chow Chang said the world is occupied with COVID-19, but it shouldn't lose sight of potentially unsafe viruses too.

Influenza viruses are rare but if new strains like this emerge, they pose a huge threat if they get transmitted from one person to another.

The virus has been circulating since 2016, but researchers did not find any known significant illness in humans as a result of it. "We need to be vigilant about other infectious disease threats even as COVID is going on because viruses have no interest in whether we're already having another pandemic".

Scientists discovered the new virus after antibodies were found in Chinese pig farmers.

"As it's new, people could have little or no immunity to the virus", the BBC wrote, adding that it would take only a slight mutation to enable person-to-person transmission.

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