Another Flu Virus With 'Pandemic Potential' Found Spreading In China

The world has yet to find an effective way to eliminate or at least control COVID-19. But scientists discovered another virus in China that could infect people and has the potential to cause a pandemic. 

A new study, published in the journal Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences, shows a new strain of flu that is carried by pigs. Researchers said it appeared with "all the hallmarks" of being highly adapted to cause infections in humans. 

The findings come from a nearly decade-long analysis of samples from pigs across China. The team started collecting nearly 30,000 swabs from slaughterhouses in 10 provinces in 2011 and another 1,000 swabs from pigs at a local veterinary teaching hospital.

Researchers said the new virus, called G4 EA H1N1, appeared unique among other viruses discovered during the study. It is a combination of three flu strains, with one coming from European and Asian birds, a strain that caused the 2009 swine flu outbreak and a North American flu, Business Insider reported Monday.

G4 EA H1N1 also shares a similar target with the novel coronavirus. The new strain reproduces in the respiratory system and can also spread through exposure to small airborne particles or droplets.

Threats Of Another Pandemic

Since G4 EA H1N1 is a newly discovered virus, researchers believe that people could have little or no immunity to it. It also contains parts of the 2009 swine flu, which "may promote the virus adaptation" and speed up human-to-human transmission. 

The virus has already been infecting people in China, mainly those working in local abattoirs and the swine industry. Researchers said it is important to contain the virus early in pigs to avoid potential outbreaks.

Current flu vaccines may not be able to block G4 EA H1N1 in people. Researchers plan to continue observing the virus to understand how it affects people and to guide efforts to treat future infections. 

“Right now we are distracted with coronavirus and rightly so. But we must not lose sight of potentially dangerous new viruses,” Kin-Chow Chang, a professor at Nottingham University in the United Kingdom, told the BBC. “We should not ignore it.”
Flu virus Researchers discovered a new virus in pigs in China with "all the hallmarks" of being highly adapted to cause infections in humans and spread through airborne particles or droplets. Pixabay