Scientists have found another swine flu virus in Chinese pigs they believe might have the potential to infect humans. They are concerned this may cause another pandemic as we are still struggling with COVID-19.
British and Chinese researchers have been studying G4 EA H1N1. It shares many of the same characteristics as the H1N1 that caused the pandemic in 2009. According to a study published in the peer-reviewed journal Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences, this new virus can infect, bind to, and replicate in tissue cells in airways.
This study is part of a larger surveillance project that tries and identify potential influenza strands that are present in Chinese pigs. Scientists analyzed almost 30,000 nasal swabs from pigs in 10 Chinese provinces and 1,000 nasal swabs from pigs, which showed symptoms of respiratory problems between 2011 and 2018.
H4 EA H1N1 was first discovered in 2016, and pig workers were found to have antibodies to the virus in their system. This indicates they have been infected by the virus at one point. But scientists caution the public not to worry as there is no evidence of an outbreak.
Dr. Anthony Fauci told the Senate committee on Tuesday, June 30th, that the virus is not “an immediate threat” to the world, but they will monitor the virus.
This comes as COVID-19 cases are setting record highs in the last few days. This has caused states to change their phased economic reopening plans. According to the Center for Disease Control and Prevention, the H1N1 virus killed between 151,700 to 575,400 worldwide.
The professor of preventive medicine and infectious disease at Vanderbilt University, Dr. William Schaffner states “Thinking back over the history of infectious diseases, I can’t think of a time when we’ve had two simultaneous respiratory viruses that are pandemic,” he continues “This would be an unprecedented event should this virus suddenly decide to activate and begin to spread.”
One good thing about this new virus, is that is was discovered in 2016, and there has not been an outbreak. According to Dr. Schaffner, the United States is more prepared for an influenza pandemic as the United States had already been through a similar pandemic in 2009, and there are vaccines that have been developed. Unlike coronavirus which was novel.4
It is unknown, however, if the current vaccines would be effective on the new virus.
The biggest unknown questions on this new virus are: is there human to human transmission possible and can it cause disease in humans.
With antibodies present in humans, it is unclear if they were infected by the pigs or other humans. The antibodies do, however, suggest that the infection was recoverable. There is no evidence of symptoms that show illness.
More research is needed, but Dr. Schaffner says the study is an “early warning signal”. The normal human does not need to do anything, but now the health world is on alert.Related: Wash Your Hands After Touching These 11 Items