A new strain of influenza has been identified in pigs in China this week, raising concerns for a second pandemic.
The new strain of virus is genetically similar to Swine Flu, and causes respiratory illnesses.
The strain, named G4 EA H1N1, thrives and multiplies in the cells that grow in the human airway.
While the discovery has raised concerns about a new pandemic, Carl Bergstrom, a biologist at the University of Washington, has urged the public not to panic.
He tweeted: “There’s no evidence that G4 is circulating in humans, despite five years of extensive exposure.
“That’s the key context to keep in mind.”
The new virus recently emerged in pigs but can infect humans too, according to new research published in a journal article.
Writing in Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences, the researchers explained that it had “all the essential hallmarks of a candidate pandemic virus.”
The researchers also found evidence of recent infection with the new influenza virus originating with people who worked in abattoirs and the swine farming industry in China.
The researchers urged “urgent” monitoring of pigs and people who came into contact with the new influenza strain.
Prof Kin-Chow Chang, who works at Nottingham University in the UK, told the BBC : “Right now we are distracted with coronavirus and rightly so.
“But we must not lose sight of potentially dangerous new viruses.”
While this new virus is not an immediate problem, he added: “We should not ignore it”.