Flu virus with “pandemic potential” uncovered in China by scientists. They call the new strain of flu “G4 EA H1N1″ which includes the “G4″ genotype.
The origin of the new strain is from “swine flu” which surfaced in 2009 leading to the first global flu pandemic in 40 years.
Based on the scientists’ peer-reviewed findings in US science journal Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences, the new strain of flu is a variation of swine flu and includes the “G4″ genotype which is central in swine populations since 2016.
The new strain is reportedly manifesting “all the essential hallmarks of a candidate pandemic virus.”
The team investigated flu viruses in pig populations between 2011 and 2018. They found that about 10% of swine industry workers they tested in China had already been exposed to the virus. They found this situation “of concern.”
Meanwhile, that rate rose among younger workers, aged 18-35, “indicating that the predominant G4 EA H1N1 virus has acquired increased human infectivity.”
“Such infectivity greatly enhances the opportunity for virus adaptation in humans and raises concerns for the possible generation of pandemic viruses,” the scientists, who work at several Chinese universities and the country’s Center for Disease Control and Prevention, noted.
The scientists called for close monitoring of swine populations and anyone working with them.
“Controlling the prevailing G4 EA H1N1 viruses in pigs and close monitoring in human populations, especially the workers in swine industry, should be urgently implemented,” they wrote.
“Pigs are intermediate hosts for the generation of pandemic influenza virus. Thus, systematic surveillance of influenza viruses in pigs is a key measure for prewarning the emergence of the next pandemic influenza.”
The scientists pointed out that any preexisting population immunity “does not provide protection against G4 viruses.” They noted that the virus is not an immediate problem, however.
Professor Kin-Chow Chang, one of scientists involved in the study and who works at Nottingham University in the U.K., told the BBC that “while this new virus is not an immediate problem … We should not ignore it.”
“Right now we are distracted with coronavirus and rightly so. But we must not lose sight of potentially dangerous new viruses.”
Meanwhile, the coronavirus pandemic is “speeding up” as countries reopen their economies, according to the World Health Organization (WHO).
Tedros Adhanom Ghebreyesus, director-general of the World Health Organization, pointed out that many countries are experiencing a resurgence in Covid-19 cases.
“Although many countries have made some progress, globally, the pandemic is actually speeding up,” he said during an online news conference from the agency’s headquarters in Geneva, Switzerland. “We all want this to be over. We all want to get on with our lives, but the hard reality is that this is not even close to being over.”
The coronavirus pandemic recorded over 10.1 million infections worldwide and led to 502,000 deaths so far, based on the data compiled by Johns Hopkins University.
“Some countries have now experienced a resurgence of cases as they start to reopen their economies and societies,” Tedros said. “Most people remain susceptible. The virus still has a lot of room to move.”