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A new strain of swine flu, which was discovered during swine flu surveillance studies in China between 2011-2018, has been recorded in high levels in the blood of Chinese swine workers

PHOTO CREDITS: BUSINESS INSIDER INDIA

A new strain of swine flu, which was discovered during swine flu surveillance studies in China between 2011-2018, has been recorded in high levels in the blood of Chinese swine workers. ~

The strain, named G4 EA H1N1, is a descendent of the A/H1N1pdm09 swine flu, which was responsible for the swine flu outbreak of 2009. While the two strains are very similar, A/H1N1pdm09 is covered by the annual flu vaccine, while the new strain is not. Researchers, who published their findings in the Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences of the United States of America on the 29th, took 30,000 nasal swabs from pigs and isolated 179 swine flu viruses, the majority of which were the G4 EA H1N1 strain, which has been the predominant strain in pigs since 2016. The researchers also found that while the strain seems to have the characteristics of a virus that infects humans, there is no research yet that shows it can be transmitted from person to person.  However, more than 10% of swine workers tested positive for the virus, which researchers say “raises concerns for the possible generation of pandemic viruses”, in addition to the fact that the new strain has “possessed all the essential hallmarks of being highly adaptive to infect humans.” ~

While the virus is not an immediate problem, this research comes as a “salutary reminder”, in the words of Professor James Wood from the University of Cambridge, that the world is constantly at risk for new diseases and pathogens. In a comment made to BBC, a World Health Organization Spokeswoman explained that the organization is aware of swine flu strains that are circulating in Asia that infect humans “sporadically.” Additionally, she said that every six months, during the “influenza vaccine composition meetings,” all new information is discussed and the need for new vaccines is reevaluated. “We will carefully read the paper to understand what is new,” the spokeswoman confirmed. ~

Professor Kin-Chow Chang, one of the researchers who co-wrote the report, comments that “Right now, we are distracted by coronavirus and rightly so. But we must not lose sight of potentially dangerous new viruses.” ~

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