It’s similar to the swine flu of 2009, and researchers say it’s one to keep an eye on even as the world struggles to bring the current Covid-19 pandemic under control.
Scientists have identified a strain of influenza that has recently emerged among pigs called G4 EA H1N1.
The new strain is carried by pigs but can infect humans, and scientists say it has “all the hallmarks” of being highly adapted enough to potentially cause a pandemic
A new strain of flu discovered in China has the potential to become another pandemic – and humans would be extremely vulnerable to it.
There are concerns that the strain could mutate further and become more infectious, spreading easily from person to person and potentially triggering a global outbreak.
They have discovered evidence of it infecting people working in abattoirs and other swine facilities in China. The virus can grow and multiply in the cells lining the human airways, new research indicates.
Because the virus is so new, humans likely have little or no immunity to it, making it more dangerous.
Professor Kin-Chow Chang and his colleagues say G4 EA H1N1 has “all the hallmarks” of a pandemic in the making and must be monitored closely to control its spread among pigs, they wrote in the Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences journal.
“Right now we are distracted with coronavirus and rightly so,” Prof Chang of Nottingham University told the BBC.
Current flu vaccines don’t seem to protect against it, although they could be adapted to do so should it become necessary.
“But we must not lose sight of potentially dangerous new viruses.”
While G4 EA H1N1 isn’t presenting an immediate problem, he says we “should not ignore it”.
During the 2009 pandemic, swine flu proved to be less deadly than expected because many older people turned out to have some level of immunity to it, likely because it was similar to other flu viruses from previous years.
Public health experts are constantly on the lookout for new strains of influenza that could trigger a mass outbreak among humans.