Published: 2020-07-01 10:19
Last Updated: 2020-07-01 10:45
Scientists in China have identified a new strain of swine flu, warning that it could become a global pandemic.
Scientists at the Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences (PNAS) have named the virus G4 EA H1N1. It is carried by pigs but can be transmitted to humans, and as humans are not immune to the latest strain, close monitoring is needed to prevent a major outbreak.
"Right now we are distracted with coronavirus and rightly so. But we must not lose sight of potentially dangerous new viruses," professor Kin-Chow Chang, who works at Nottingham University in the UK told the BBC.
Although he said it is not an immediate problem, he stressed it should not be ignored.
Researchers at PNAS discovered workers in abattoirs and the swine industry in China were found to have been infected when they looked at data from 2011 to 2018. Although current flu vaccines do not protect against it, they could be adapted to do so.
The latest strain can grow, replicate and bind to the cells in the respiratory system. Scientists demonstrated it can infect ferrets via aerosol transmission, causing symptoms such as sneezing, wheezing, coughing, and weight loss.
Researchers stressed the need for measures to be taken to control the virus in pigs and to monitor swine industry workers.