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Scientists Discover New Swine Flu Virus That May Cause A Pandemic

The virus is thought to be zoonotic—can be passed from animals to humans.

Some 10 years ago or so, the world also faced a pandemic that was first discovered in the United States: the A/H1N1pdm09 virus, more commonly known as H1N1.

This virus is a swine flu that has infected over 60 million people in the US alone, from 2009 to 2010. It is a new strain of the virus that caused the 1918 Spanish flu pandemic and primarily affected children, young adults, and middle-aged adults.

Soon enough, experts were able to control the spread of the H1N1 virus by having discovered a vaccine against it that largely decreased its infection rate. But despite an available vaccine, people are still occasionally infected by the H1N1 virus, even as recently as February of this year.  (Read: Prayers for Those Affected by the COVID-19 Pandemic)

But apart from this, there is another thing to worry about as a new strain of the swine flu virus has been discovered by researchers in China. In a study published on June 29, 2020, researchers state that the newly discovered strain, called G4, is capable of causing a pandemic. It also shows the possibility of being passed on from animals to humans.

Nasal swabs from more than 30,000 Chinese pigs over 7 years found an increase in an avianlike influenza virus that has swapped genes from several strains. (Photos from AFP / WION)

“[The G4 virus possesses] all the essential hallmarks of being highly adapted to infect humans,” says the researchers from the Center for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) in China. Their study acquired 30,000 nasal swab samples from pigs in slaughterhouses and veterinary clinics around China and was able to isolate over 150 swine flu viruses, one of which is the G4 virus. (Read: Virus-proof your home with these easy (and affordable!) ways)

Threat to Humans

The G4 strain was found to be highly infectious and cause more significant symptoms compared to other viruses; it also replicates in human cells. Researchers said that the immunity individuals get after acquiring the seasonal flu is not enough to protect the body from the new strain.

Researchers also carried out tests on swine workers and those living near or around slaughterhouses and found that 10.4% of swine workers and around 4.4% of the general population have already been exposed to the virus. This is quite alarming because it shows that the virus is capable of transferring from an animal to a human. However, there is no evidence yet of human to human transmissions. (Read: Here’s why you should dry your hands with paper towels instead of automatic hand dryers)

The experts from CDC in China are worried that human exposure and infection to the virus will cause further adaptation of G4 to the human body. This would increase the risk of having yet another human pandemic. The experts are calling for close monitoring of individuals working with swine to prevent a worst-case scenario.

A strain of the swine flu virus has become prevalent in pigs in China and has the potential to spread to humans and become another pandemic, researchers claim. (Photo from ShutterStock / Dario Sabljak / Daily Mail)

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