New swine flu strain found in China has pandemic potential

Clay Curtis
June 30, 2020

Almost one-third of people over the age of 60 had antibodies against the virus, "likely from exposure to an older H1N1 virus earlier in their lives", the CDC said. However, they say there is no evidence it is yet capable of being passed from person to person.

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

Scientists collected various blood samples and discovered that at least 10.4 per cent of swine workers have developed antibodies, hence, already been infected by the new swine flu along with almost 4.4 per cent of the general population.

"It is of concern that human infection of G4 virus will further human adaptation and increase the risk of a human pandemic", the researchers wrote.

The Chinese scientists say that it does not pose a big threat, at least not now. Hence, to counter the new strain, the annual flu vaccine is recommended to be made widespread.

Scientists at Chinese universities and China's Centre for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) detected the new virus after analysing 30,000 nasal swabs from pigs in slaughterhouses in 10 Chinese provinces between 2011 and 2018.

Out of these samples, the researchers isolated 179 swine flu viruses, the majority of which belonged to the newly identified G4 strain.

Researchers then infected ferrets with the virus, as they experience similar symptoms to humans, to see how people may react to it.

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"G4 viruses have all the essential hallmarks of a candidate pandemic virus", the team of United Kingdom researchers wrote.

So far the strain has not been a threat, but monitoring new types of swine flus is crucial, particularly because humans will have no immunity to them. "The likelihood that this particular variant is going to cause a pandemic is low", said the expert who studies pig influenza viruses in the USA and their spread to humans.

Serological surveillance carried out on 338 swine workers found that 10.4 per cent were positive to the G4 EA H1N1 virus.

Although it was initially feared to be a serious risk to health, H1N1 ultimately turned out to be a mild illness.

In 2009, the H1N1 swine flu pandemic killed an estimated 151,700 to 575,400 people globally.

I'm one of the unlucky few in South Africa who contracted swine flu back when it was doing the rounds in 2009, which landed me in hospital.

Covid-19, which is a coronavirus, not flu, has caused more than 500,000 known deaths worldwide in just five months, although the true death toll is thought to be higher.

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