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New swine flu with pandemic potential identified in China

Published on 30/06/20 at 11:10am
Photo by Joshua Lutz

A new strain of flu has emerged in pigs in China, with scientists warning it has pandemic potential.

Researchers call the virus G4 EA H1N1 and it can grow and multiply in the cells that line the human airways. It’s genetically descended from the strain that caused a pandemic in 2009.

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.There is evidence that recent infections took place in people who worked in abattoirs and the swine industry between 2011 and 2018. It also appears that current flu vaccines will not protect humans from it.

Prof Kin-Chow Chang, who works at Nottingham University in the UK, told the BBC: “Right now we are distracted with coronavirus and rightly so. But we must not lose sight of potentially dangerous new viruses.”

The US Center for Disease Control and Prevention said that it possesses all the essential hallmarks of being highly adapted to infect humans.

Despite the world’s current focus on the COVID-19 pandemic, scientists are still wary of the threat a new influenza outbreak poses. The swine flu outbreak of 2009 was less deadly than initially feared due to many older people having some immunity to it because it was similar to other recent flu viruses.

Conor Kavanagh

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