China Warns of New Virus That Could Spark Fresh Pandemic
As if the coronavirus is not enough cause for global concern right now, Chinese scientists are calling attention to a new flu virus that could trigger yet another pandemic.
Writing for the Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences journal, about 20 scientists announced that they have identified a new strain of influenza virus in pigs.
Alarmingly, hogs are considered important hosts in the generation and transmission of pandemic viruses.
In effect, even though the new G4 EA H1N1 is now only carried exclusively by pigs, it could jump to humans any time to trigger a global outbreak on top of the ongoing COVID-19 pandemic.
In fact, scientists are beginning to find traces of the infection among workers employed by China’s swine industry.
A Repeat of The 2009 A/H1N1 Pandemic?
If the name of the new virus seems awfully familiar, you might be thinking of the deadly A/H1N1pdm09 virus, which severely affected the population of both pigs and humans in 2009.
Recall that the U.S. Centre for Disease and Control Prevention estimated that between 150,000 to 575,000 people died from the H1N1 pandemic just within the outbreak’s first year.
Even then, the 2009 outbreak that began in Mexico ended up being less deadly than initially projected, because older people were found to have possessed a certain immunity to it.
While scientists said the new influenza strain is largely similar to the 2009 swine flu, they recognized several distinctions between the two.
For one, current flu vaccines, including the vaccine for the 2009 H1N1 virus, does not seem to lessen the impact of the new virus.
Thus, scientists fear that people might have minimal immunity -- or none at all -- against the new influenza strain.
Not to Be Ignored
Because of these concerning findings, Nottingham University’s Professor Kin-Chow Chang told BBC that the new flu has “all the hallmarks” of spreading from person to person fast.
He added that the virus may not be an immediate problem, but everyone must still keep an eye on it.
“Right now, we are distracted with coronavirus and rightfully so,” he explained. “But we must not lose sight of potentially dangerous new viruses. We should not ignore it.”