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