New Strain of Swine Flu Virus from China Can Cause A Pandemic

Scientists have discovered cases of swine flu in China that has the potential of becoming another. While some scientists have issued warnings over it, other have said that we should not spend too much energy worrying about it becoming the next big outbreak.

On Monday, George Gao, the head of the Chinese Center for Disease Control along with other researchers, published a study in the Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences. The study identifies a swine flu in China that has transmitted to human beings. They are calling the virus G4 and say it bears resemblance to the 2009 H1N1 swine flu that caused a pandemic and killed more than 20,000 people in 2009 and 2010. The new study warns that the strain of H1N1, common in China’s pig farms since 2016, should be “urgently” controlled to avoid another pandemic.

The H1N1 is a virus that can actively transmit with accelerated rats. Its outbreak around the world was reported in 2009 that caused over 285,000 casualties, morphing into seasonal flu. The newer strain, G4 EA H1N1, is reported to common in China, specifically on pigs since 2016. It reproduces and replicates efficiently in human airways as per the published study. To date, it has caused a few numbers of cases, however, it hasn’t caused any serious disease or complication, but health experts fear that could change without warning.

“G4 viruses have all the essential hallmarks of a candidate pandemic virus.”

The study further added that this needs to urgent immediately, otherwise we should be prepared for another pandemic on its way.  The study is based on the surveillance of pigs in 10 Chinese provinces from 2011 – 2018. In the past 3 years, in the study, scientists collected over 338 blood samples from workers that had been working on 15 pig farms and 230 from people in nearby households.

It was found through study findings that over 10.4 % of the workers and over 4.4% of those individuals tested positive for antibodies against the G4 EA H1N1 virus. The age group of workers who tested positive was between 18 – 35 and the percentage of positive cases was 20.5.

According to the virology head at Britain’s Animal and Plant health, Mr. Ian H. Brown, it is better to pay close attention to the virus.

“It may be that with further change in the virus it could become more aggressive in people much as SARS-CoV-2 has done,” Dr. Brown said in an email on Tuesday in reference to the COVID-19.

The published study was sent for review in early December, weeks before the coronavirus outbreak in the Chinese city of Wuhan began making global headlines.

Li-Min Huang, the director of the Division of ​Pediatric Infectious Disease​s at National Taiwan University Hospital, said that a crucial next step would be finding out whether any of the infected workers at the pig farms had contracted the virus from humans, as well as whether any of them had spread the virus to their families. He raised his concerns and said that the virus looks significantly dangerous and it is wise to get worries about its potential for human – human transmission. Furthermore, the incidence of G4 viruses in farmed Chinese pigs has been reported with the respiratory symptoms and it began rising sharply after 2014.

Source: CDC

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