A new flu virus found in Chinese pigs has become infectious to humans and needs to be watched more closely in case it becomes a potential pandemic virus. Although as per the experts there is no imminent threat.
A team of Chinese researchers took a look at influenza viruses found in pigs from 2011 to 2018 and found a G4 strain of H1N1. It could have all the essential hallmarks of a pandemic virus, according to the paper, published by the U.S. journal, Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences (PNAS).
Pig farm workers showed elevated levels of the virus in their blood, the authors said. Close monitoring in human populations, especially the workers in the swine industry, needs to be implemented urgently, he added.
The study highlights the risks of the virus crossing the species barrier into humans. Especially in densely populated regions in China, where millions live in close proximity to farms, breeding facilities, wet markets, etc.
The coronavirus that caused the worldwide COVID-19 pandemic is believed to have originated in southwest China in horseshoe bats and could have spread to humans via a seafood market in Wuhan, where the virus was first identified.
China took action against an outbreak of H1N1 in 2009. By restricting incoming flights from affected countries and putting tens of thousands of people into quarantine.
The new virus identified in the study is a recombination of the 2009 H1N1 variant. A once prevalent strain found in pigs.
There’s no evidence that G4 is circulating in humans. Despite five years of extensive exposure, Carl Bergstrom, a biologist at the University of Washington said on Twitter after the paper’s publication. That’s the key context to keep in mind.
(with inputs from economictimes)