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Researchers Discover New Strain Of Flu With 'Pandemic Potential'

Researchers Discover New Strain Of Flu With 'Pandemic Potential'

The virus was found in pigs and has 'all the hallmarks' of being able to transmit from human to human.

Stewart Perrie

Stewart Perrie

Researchers have discovered a new strain of flu that could have dramatic repercussions for the world.

Thankfully, G4 EA H1N1, the virus' name, is solely contained in pigs at the moment, however it has the potential to hop to humans if it isn't properly monitored.

Scientists have published their findings in the journal Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences, which states this new strain, called G4 for short, has 'all the hallmarks' of being able to transmit from human to human.

Health authorities checking a plane in 2009 amid the swine flu pandemic.

What was most concerning is that the researchers reckon it has the potential to become a pandemic if human transmission becomes a reality.

The scientists wrote: "Pigs are considered as important hosts or 'mixing vessels' for the generation of pandemic influenza viruses. Systematic surveillance of influenza viruses in pigs is essential for early warning and preparedness for the next potential pandemic.

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

The biggest threat is because the strain is new it means that humans will have little to no immunity against it.

Researchers discovered the strain after taking 30,000 swabs from pigs between 2011 to 2018 from slaughterhouses in 10 Chinese provinces and in a veterinary hospital. The study allowed them to identify and isolate a whopping 179 swine flu viruses, however this G4 strain was of the biggest concern.

During several studies, scientists discovered G4 was highly infectious, caused more serious symptoms in ferrets compared to other viruses and were able to replicate fast in human cells. Pressure is now on to protect people who work with animals like pigs, with another study finding through antibody tests that more than one in 10 swine workers had already been infected.

The last time a flu strain came from pigs was in 2009 with the Swine Flu, which was also called H1N1.

It was first identified in Mexico and spread rapidly across the globe. Thankfully the outbreak wasn't as bad as predicted as some humans already had an immune response to it. The people who died from it were typically young children and people with underlying health issues.

It wasn't until August 2010 that the World Health Organization declared that pandemic to be over.

Featured Image Credit: PA

Topics: News