Swine flu outbreak: New swine flu strain could be the next pandemic – expert


A NEW swine flu strain has been identified as a possible human pandemic threat as scientists say that it has “all the essential hallmarks” of a future pandemic virus.

By MELANIE KAIDANPUBLISHED: 07:47, Tue, Jul 7, 2020 | UPDATED: 10:28, Tue, Jul 7, 2020

A study published by the National Academy of Sciences claimed the virus was a worsening issue in pig farms. Alexandru Niculae, Communication Officer Media and Risk Communication at European Centre for Disease Prevention and Control (ECDC), told Express.co.uk: “The data have been already presented in earlier meetings where the issue of the circulation of >30 different reasserted swine flu viruses with different compositions in the pig population in China and most of them contained H1pdm09 segments were mentioned. Therefore these findings are well known.


“The study highlights important findings to monitor swine influenza closely; however, the findings described due to the low sample size in a growing pig population of >60 mil pigs during a study period over several years in the past might not represent the actual situation in the Chinese pig population.

“In addition, the epidemic of African Swine Fever had a great impact in and caused high mortality in the pig population across South-east Asia including China over the last years, which might have contributed to a different situation.

“Although a relatively high rate of seropositivity of 10% is mentioned, positive serological findings could also indicate cross-reactivity to closely related viruses which might have a different gene composition.

“No international notification through IHR of any human case and in particular a severe human case has been reported from China or elsewhere related to this virus.”

New swine flu strain could be the next pandemic

New swine flu strain could be the next pandemic (Image: Getty)

“Comparable (or even higher) seropositivity results have been seen in Live Bird Market workers for avian flu (e.g. against H9), which underline the overall threat of influenza viruses to transmit from birds, swine or other animals to humans.

“Therefore, continuous monitoring of influenza viruses in animals is required to understand the evolution and be able to identify viruses with a zoonotic potential early.”

Of the transmission of the disease he said: “Influenza viruses can transmit through droplets but also direct contact between animals and humans.”

“Influenza viruses are entering the body through entry in cells in the respiratory tract, however, the mainly affected organs of newly emerging viruses are not known.”

READ MORE: Outrage at ‘disgraceful’ protest – ‘Keep Scotland COVID-Free’

A swine flu strain has been identified as a possible human pandemic threat

A swine flu strain has been identified as a possible human pandemic threat (Image: Getty)


While the virus can potentially infect humans, no mild or severe infections have been reported within the human community.

Mr Niculae said: “No mild or severe human cases infected with these viruses have been reported to the World Health Organisation (WHO) according to Integrating the Healthcare

Enterprise (IHE) although serological findings might identify seroreaction against the described or similar viruses. The symptoms are not known.”

The authors of the study said the capability of the new pathogen – named G4 EA H1N1 – to acclimate would raise “concerns for the possible generation of pandemic viruses”.

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Coronavirus: The vital importance of social distancing

Coronavirus: The vital importance of social distancing (Image: Express)

Asked about the report at a briefing in Geneva today, WHO spokesman Christian Lindmeier said: “We will read carefully the paper to understand what is new.

“It also highlights we cannot let our guard down on influenza and need to be vigilant and continue surveillance even in the coronavirus pandemic.”

Between 2011 and 2018, the research team observed about 30,000 nasal swabs taken from pigs in abattoirs in 10 Chinese provinces.

They also analysed 1,000 swabs from pigs with respiratory symptoms that had received treatment at CAU’s veterinary teaching hospital.

Between 2011 and 2018, the researchers observed about 30,000 nasal swabs taken from pigs in abattoirs in 10 Chinese provinces

Between 2011 and 2018, the researchers observed about 30,000 nasal swabs taken from pigs in abattoirs in 10 Chinese provinces (Image: Getty)


They found a total of 179 swine influenza viruses, including G4, which started to prevail in the samples from 2016 onward.

“Close monitoring in human populations, especially the workers in the swine industry, should be urgently implemented,” the paper said.

“It is of concern that human infection of G4 virus will further human adaptation and increase the risk of a human pandemic.”

The alarm was raised when it was discovered that the immunity humans build up to regular seasonal flu does not protect against G4 EA H1N1.

Some abattoir workers – 10.4 percent – had formed the antibodies to ward off the new pathogen thanks to their exposure to it.

A new strain of swine flu has raised pandemic concerns – we spoke to an expert

Gabi Zietsman | Health24 03 Jul 2020, 02:45


New Virus With Pandemic Potential Discovered in China

According to CNN, Chinese researchers say the G4 virus descends from 2009’s H1N1 swine flu.

  • Researchers have identified a new strain of flu in pigs in China, which could potentially lead to another pandemic
  • The new virus has similar genes to the 2009 strain that spread throughout the world 
  • However, local experts assure us that these findings are no cause for panic

As the world is still grappling with the current coronavirus pandemic, a new flu strain might be waiting in the wings.https://imasdk.googleapis.com/js/core/bridge3.392.0_en.html#goog_951704332Play Video11s

COVID-19 is 10 times more deadly than swine flu: WHO

The novel coronavirus is 10 times more deadly than swine flu, also called H1N1, which caused a global pandemic in 2009, the World Health Organization says, calling for control measures to be lifted “slowly”.

The discovery of a  new type of flu strain in pigs in China has caused some alarm, according to a new study. This strain has bird flu properties and a G4 genotype that could potentially infect workers in the pork industry, making it a prime candidate for a new pandemic.

READ: Some countries seeing fewer flu cases due to coronavirus lockdown measures, research shows

Current vaccines and herd immunity from the last outbreak of swine flu, unfortunately, do not provide enough protection against this strain. 

“Such infectivity greatly enhances the opportunity for virus adaptation in humans and raises concerns for the possible generation of pandemic viruses,” write the researchers.  

Pigs are known as “mixing vessels” where viruses can “work” together to create new strains. 

Professor James Wood, Head of Department of Veterinary Medicine at the University of Cambridge from the Science Media Centre applauded the researchers for their thorough seven-year investigation.

“The work comes as a salutary reminder that we are constantly at risk of new emergence of zoonotic pathogens, and that farmed animals, with which humans have greater contact than with wildlife, may act as the source for important pandemic viruses.” 

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No cause for alarm

However, a local expert emphasises that it shouldn’t be a major cause for alarm. 

Professor Maia Lesosky, head of Epidemiology & Biostatistics at the School of Public Health & Family Medicine at the University of Cape Town, notes that this strain isn’t entirely new – as pointed out in the study – and just started becoming prevalent in pigs around 2016 in a specific region.

“They have also demonstrated that this strain has the characteristics that would enable it to infect humans and may have the characteristics that would allow human-to-human transmission. 

“They did not show – and this is important – that it would cause disease in humans, so this is not an immediate public health threat,” says Lesosky. 

She adds that monitoring of H1N1 strains remains important, and that the purpose of this study is to make public health professionals aware of this specific virus, while not being any cause for alarm to the public. 

China has the largest population of pigs in the world according to Statista. It is home to half the global pig population, numbering around 310 million pigs, which makes the country more susceptible to virus  outbreaks. 

In contrast, South Africa only slaughters about three million pigs a year, amounting to 0.2% of total world pork production, according to the South African Pork Producers’ Organisation. 

READ: We’ve been here before: lessons from the 1918 Spanish flu pandemic

Image credit: Pixabay

Dr. Anthony Fauci says new virus in China has traits of 2009 swine flu and 1918 pandemic flu



  • White House coronavirus advisor Dr. Anthony Fauci said U.S. health officials are keeping an eye on a new strain of flu carried by pigs in China that has characteristics of the 2009 H1N1 virus and 1918 pandemic flu.
  • The virus, which scientists are calling “G4 EA H1N1,” has not yet been shown to infect humans but it is exhibiting “reassortment capabilities,” Fauci told the Senate Health, Education, Labor and Pensions Committee during a hearing Tuesday. 
  • The H1N1 swine flu emerged in Mexico in April 2009, infecting 60.8 million people in the U.S. and at least 700 million worldwide. An estimated 151,700 to 575,400 people died from the virus across the globe, according to the CDC.

WATCH NOWVIDEO01:23Fauci: New virus in China has traits of 2009 swine flu and 1918 pandemic flu

White House coronavirus advisor Dr. Anthony Fauci said Tuesday that U.S. health officials are keeping an eye on a new strain of flu carried by pigs in China that has characteristics of the 2009 H1N1 virus and 1918 pandemic flu.

The virus, which scientists are calling “G4 EA H1N1,” has not yet been shown to infect humans but it is exhibiting “reassortment capabilities,” Fauci, director of the National Institute of Allergy and Infectious Diseases, told the Senate Health, Education, Labor and Pensions Committee during a hearing. 

“In other words, when you get a brand new virus that turns out to be a pandemic virus it’s either due to mutations and/or the reassortment or exchanges of genes,” he told lawmakers. “And they’re seeing virus in swine, in pigs now, that have characteristics of the 2009 H1N1, of the original 1918, which many of our flu viruses have remnants of that in it, as well as segments from other hosts, like swine.”

The H1N1 swine flu and 1918 pandemic flu were both considered horrific viruses that spread across the globe.

The H1N1 swine flu emerged in Mexico in April 2009, infecting 60.8 million people in the United States alone and at least 700 million worldwide. An estimated 151,700 to 575,400 people died from the virus across the globe, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. It is now seen as one of a variety of seasonal flu viruses. 

The 1918 flu, which Fauci has often compared to Covid-19, is estimated to have killed between 30 million and 50 million people, according to the CDC. More than 20 million people died in World War I, by comparison. 

The new strain that is spreading in pig farms in China has been identified as having “all the essential hallmarks of a candidate pandemic virus,” scientists say.

WATCH NOWVIDEO01:33Scientists find potential new strain of ‘pandemic’ swine flu in China

Fauci said Tuesday there’s always “the possibility that you might have another swine flu-type outbreak as we had in 2009.”

“It’s something that still is in the stage of examination,” he said. It’s not “an immediate threat where you’re seeing infections, but it’s something we need to keep our eye on, just the way we did in 2009 with the emergence of the swine flu.”

Fauci’s comments came as the coronavirus continues to rapidly spread across the U.S., with the seven-day average of new cases growing by 5% or more in at least 40 states, including Arizona, Texas, Florida and Oklahoma, according to a CNBC analysis of data compiled by Johns Hopkins University.

Public health officials and physicians have criticized the Trump administration’s lack of coordinated response to the virus. In recent weeks, President Donald Trump has downplayed the virus, saying the U.S. is nearing the end of the pandemic, contrary to experts in his own administration.

Earlier this month, Fauci said Covid-19 turned out to be his “worst nightmare” come to life as the coronavirus continues to rapidly spread across the globe.

He said the virus is “very different” from other outbreaks such as Ebola and HIV. The virus jumped from an animal host and has a high degree of transmissibility and mortality, he said. It is historically one of the worst pandemics the world has ever experienced, he said, adding people have compared it to the 1918 flu.

First detected in Wuhan, China, about six months ago, the new coronavirus has already infected more than 10.4 million people across the globe, killing more than 500,000.

On Tuesday, Fauci told lawmakers that he is concerned about the rise in new cases in places such as Texas and Florida. 

He said reopening schools in the fall season will depend on the dynamics of the outbreak and the particular location of the school in question. 

A new swine-flu strain with ‘pandemic potential’ was just found circulating in Chinese pigs


HOLLY SECONJUN 30, 2020, 23:29 ISTLocal animal husbandry workers inject a pig to collect a blood sample at a pig farm in Zhangye, Gansu province, China on October 28, 2019.REUTERS/Stringer

  • study published on Monday describes a new strain of influenza found in pigs in Chinese slaughterhouses.
  • The strain is a combination of a bird-flu virus and the virus that caused the 2009 swine-flu pandemic, giving it “pandemic potential” in humans, the researchers wrote.
  • The flu strain was also found in a small number of farmers, but it doesn’t seem to spread human-to-human. The researchers said that could change, however.

A nearly decadelong study of Chinese pigs has found a potentially dangerous new type of influenza virus.

The study, published on Monday in the journal Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences, describes a flu strain that shares genes with the one that caused the 2009 swine-flu pandemic. The researchers behind the work warned that the flu strain has “pandemic potential.”They described the virus as a combination of three strains: one from European and Asian birds, the one that caused the 2009 pandemic, and one from North America that has genes from bird, human, and pig flu viruses.Advertisementhttps://06db0d292e84275a90b6d094dae35c6f.safeframe.googlesyndication.com/safeframe/1-0-37/html/container.html

The new strain could pose a major threat if it’s able to circulate among humans, the researchers wrote. It doesn’t seem to do that yet, but antibodies to this type of virus were detected in 35 slaughterhouse workers, indicating that they may have been infected at some point in the past few years. The researchers said that because the strain contains parts of the 2009 swine-flu virus, it “may promote the virus adaptation” that leads to human-to-human transmission.

Dr. Anthony Fauci, director of the National Institute of Allergy and Infectious Diseases, said at a Senate briefing Tuesday that this new virus was “not an immediate threat” but something to “keep your eye on.”Given the devastation the coronavirus pandemic has caused, the researchers behind the study said, it’s critical to take proactive measures now to protect people against this swine flu.Advertisement

A patient suffering from the coronavirus in the intensive care unit at the Circolo hospital in Varese, Italy, on April 9, 2020.REUTERS/Flavio Lo Scalzo

An emerging type of swine flu

Identifying new virus strains in pigs is crucial for preventing another pandemic. The 2009 H1N1 pandemic was caused by an influenza A virus that emerged from pigs. The animals can serve as a reservoir for infectious diseases, since they can be infected with bird, pig, and human influenza strains.Advertisementhttps://06db0d292e84275a90b6d094dae35c6f.safeframe.googlesyndication.com/safeframe/1-0-37/html/container.html

When multiple strains of influenza infect the same pig, the viruses can swap genes in a process called reassortment, leading to the creation of a new disease.

The team of Chinese researchers that conducted the new study aimed to identify those types of potentially dangerous, never-before-seen viruses in pigs. From 2011 to 2018, they looked at nearly 30,000 swabs from pigs in slaughterhouses in 10 Chinese provinces and another 1,000 swabs from pigs with respiratory symptoms at a local veterinary teaching hospital.The researchers found 179 virus strains, but this one stood out.Advertisementhttps://06db0d292e84275a90b6d094dae35c6f.safeframe.googlesyndication.com/safeframe/1-0-37/html/container.html

Thomas Suen/Reuters

The worrisome new strain, which the researchers named G4 EA H1N1, has emerged on a larger scale in pig populations since 2016, the study said — it was “the predominant genotype in circulation in pigs detected across at least 10 provinces,” they wrote.They added that the virus was “distinct from current human influenza vaccine strains, indicating that preexisting immunity derived from the present human seasonal influenza vaccines cannot provide protection.”Advertisementhttps://06db0d292e84275a90b6d094dae35c6f.safeframe.googlesyndication.com/safeframe/1-0-37/html/container.html

The team tested the virus in a lab and found that it reproduced in animals’ respiratory systems. It can spread via airborne particles. The flu strain also transmits easily among ferrets, a species scientists frequently use as an indicator of how bad a virus may be in humans because they display human-like flu symptoms.

Whether or not the virus mutates to start spreading human-to-human will determine how dangerous it is.”Controlling the prevailing G4 EA H1N1 viruses in pigs and close monitoring in human populations, especially the workers in the swine industry, should be urgently implemented,” the researchers wrote.Advertisementhttps://06db0d292e84275a90b6d094dae35c6f.safeframe.googlesyndication.com/safeframe/1-0-37/html/container.html

A researcher works on a vaccine for the coronavirus at the Copenhagen University research lab in Copenhagen, Denmark, on March 23, 2020.THIBAULT SAVARY/AFP via Getty Images

The threat of another swine-flu pandemic

H1N1, which emerged at the end of 2008, infected about 60.8 million people in the US through 2010. It was referred to as “swine flu” because it originally jumped to humans from pigs. Estimates of global H1N1 deaths range from 151,700 to 575,400. But H1N1 differed from other flu outbreaks in that 80% of the virus-related deaths were people younger than 65; in other flu outbreaks typically about 70% and 90% of deaths are people older than 65.Advertisementhttps://06db0d292e84275a90b6d094dae35c6f.safeframe.googlesyndication.com/safeframe/1-0-37/html/container.html

Scientists think mammals and birds around the globe host about 1.7 million undiscovered types of viruses. Viruses in birds, bats, and pigs are especially risky for people.

Because China has the world’s largest pig population, scientists there monitor the animals to try to find emerging diseases before they spread.”Systematic surveillance of influenza viruses in pigs is essential for early warning and preparedness for the next potential pandemic,” the researchers behind the new study wrote.Advertisementhttps://06db0d292e84275a90b6d094dae35c6f.safeframe.googlesyndication.com/safeframe/1-0-37/html/container.html

Pigs walk across a slatted floor at Fair Oaks Farms in Fair Oaks, Indiana on May 18, 2015.AP/M.L.Johnson

Their surveillance uncovered other concerning trends: The researchers found that the portion of pigs studied that had diseases increased over time, rising to 8.2% in 2018 from 1.4% in 2011, with a sharp increase after 2014.A similar surveillance system also exists for coronaviruses in bats. Scientists think that the novel coronavirus, known as SARS-CoV-2, jumped to people from bats, likely via an intermediary animal species.Advertisementhttps://06db0d292e84275a90b6d094dae35c6f.safeframe.googlesyndication.com/safeframe/1-0-37/html/container.html

Correction: An earlier version of this story incorrectly said the new flu strain had not yet been seen in humans. The story has been updated.

The number of new flu viruses is increasing, and could lead to a pandemic


April 7, 2017 by C Raina Macintyre, Abrar Ahmad Chughtai, And Chau Bui, The Conversation
Flu virus
Flu virus

Influenza has affected humans for over 6,000 years, causing pandemics at regular intervals. During the 1918 Spanish flu, it was thought to be a bacteria, until an American physician Richard Shope identified the virus in 1931.

So how is it this pathogen has managed to stay around for so long, and why haven’t we beaten it yet? The answer is that influenza is a that changes rapidly and regularly.

New flu vaccines are required every year due to these changes and mutations of the virus. While all flu viruses which infect humans are similar, a (which is easily transmitted between humans) is significant because humans have no immunity to it, and so are vulnerable to severe infection and death. Seasonal viruses which we see year after year were once , but humans have now been exposed to these viruses and have some background immunity to them.

We have found that the last decade has seen an acceleration in the number of infecting humans.

Why are there so many flu strains today?

Around 100 years ago the world experienced the Spanish flu pandemic, and it took another 39 years for a novel influenza virus to emerge. It took a decade after that for the next one. Since 2011, however, we have seen seven novel and variant strains emerge. This is a very large increase compared to the past.

The reasons for this increase are unknown, but there could be many. One reason could be better diagnostics and testing; another could be changes in poultry farming and animal management practices, since influenza is a virus that affects humans, birds and many animal species; as well as changes in climate, urbanisation and other ecological influences.

But none of these factors have changed at the same rate as the emergence of new viruses has escalated. This warrants new research to unpack the relative contributions of all the different possible factors.

Another change is advances in genetic engineering tools, which make it possible to edit the genome of any living organism, including viruses. The possibility of a lab accident or deliberate release of engineered flu viruses is real. Experiments to engineer influenza viruses have been published since 2011, and remain controversial for the possible risk, compared to the relative possible benefit.

With so many more novel influenza viruses emerging and circulating, the probability of genetic mutation and emergence of a new pandemic strain is higher today than any time in the past. It’s a matter of when, not if.

What can we do to prevent a pandemic?

There’s actually already a lot being done to plan for and prevent another flu pandemic. This is both in terms of pharmaceutical drugs and vaccines, and non-pharmaceutical interventions like personal protective equipment, quarantine, border control and banning of mass gatherings in the event of an outbreak.

National pandemic plans outline interventions and the best sequence of different interventions, as well as prioritisation of these interventions. Most countries also conduct pandemic hypotheticals to test their systems and responses. But the best laid plans do not account for every possibility, and we usually encounter the unexpected.

For example, during the 2009 swine flu pandemic, the pandemic phases outlined in the Australian pandemic plan were revised to better fit the emerging situation. This highlights the need to be able to rapidly respond to changing circumstances and change strategies when required.

What about vaccines?

Vaccination is the most talked about strategy but producing a matched vaccine takes three to six months at a minimum. The pandemic would be expected to peak within about two months, so vaccines can’t be relied on until after the peak of the pandemic. Instead, we need to use antiviral medications, social distancing measures, personal protective equipment such as masks and gloves, isolation and quarantine to contain the pandemic.

Influenza vaccines are specific to strains of flu, and can be used for humans, birds or animals. However, they will only work against the specific strains the vaccine was designed for. There are no vaccines for many of the novel strains emerging all over the world.

It’s almost impossible to anticipate which specific virus will cause the next pandemic. At best we can prepare pre-pandemic vaccines which require an educated guess as to which virus may mutate into a pandemic strain, and make a vaccine against that.

A strain-specific pandemic planning strategy like this is not the best approach, as illustrated by the swine flu pandemic in 2009. From 2005 until 2009, the avian flu virus H5N1 ( are defined and named by proteins on their surface, haemagglutinin – H, and neuraminidase – N) was the major cause of bird flu, so the world focused heavily on preparing for a H5N1 pandemic and developing a H5 pre-pandemic .

However, the virus that caused the 2009 pandemic was H1N1, a completely different virus, so the pre- vaccines were no use.

A better approach is to try to prevent the emergence of new virus in birds and animals, and mitigate the risks once they emerge. This involves control strategies in both animal and human health sectors, surveillance and prevention efforts.

A targeted approach in global hotspots such as China, the source of the H7N9 influenza virus, and Egypt, which is experiencing a surge in H5N1 influenza, will also help.

Hotspots are generally where humans and livestock mix in close proximity, such as backyard poultry farms and live bird markets. Asia has historically been such a site. However, we sometimes see unusual outbreaks such as the bird flu outbreak in turkey farms in the USA in 2015.

Culling of birds is a commonly used method to control the risk once infection is detected. As are measures such as regulation of live bird markets and of the poultry and livestock industries. Excellent surveillance, rapid intelligence and picking up potential pandemics as they arise can make all the difference. We probably had a near miss pandemic strain arising in Indonesia in 2006, but the remote location and early detection mitigated the risk.

Explore further: Scientists ‘must not become complacent’ when assessing pandemic threat from flu viruses