A “very dangerous” and potentially pandemic-causing swine flu is to come under close scrutiny from the World Health Organisation.
The potential for the new “G4 virus” to rip through human populations has gripped the attention of the World Health Organisation (WHO) which broke its silence on the findings on Tuesday.
A new “G4” strain of the H1N1 flu virus found in Chinese pigs has become more infectious to humans and needs to be watched closely, a bombshell study announced at the weekend found.
According to scientists at China’s Centre for Disease Control and Prevention and universities, the G4 strain possesses “all the essential hallmarks of being highly adapted to infect humans” and had already got into worker’s blood steams.
Pig farm workers also showed elevated levels of the virus in their blood, the authors said, adding that “close monitoring in human populations, especially the workers in the swine industry, should be urgently implemented.”
Its emergence also underscores the risks of viruses jumping from animals to humans, especially in densely populated regions in China where millions live in close proximity to farms, slaughterhouses and wet markets.
The warning that pigs now need to be closely monitored is now being taken very seriously by WHO.
The health authority says it will “read carefully” the Chinese-authored study on a the new flu virus found in pigs and a spokesman.
A spokesman said on Tuesday the worrying findings served to stress the importance of stepping up flu surveillance going forward and during the current coronavirus pandemic.
“We will read carefully the paper to understand what is new,” the WHO’s Christian Lindmeier told a Geneva briefing.
He said it was important to continually collaborate on findings and keep tabs on animal populations.
“It also highlights we cannot let our guard down on influenza and need to be vigilant and continue surveillance even in the coronavirus pandemic,” he said.
The study was published by the US journal, Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences (PNAS) said, although experts said there is no imminent threat a future catastrophe has not been ruled out.
The G4 strain of H1N1 “has all the essential hallmarks of a candidate pandemic virus” the report’s authors cautioned.
“Given that the Covid-19 pandemic is still progressing and Sars-CoV-2 strains are constantly evolving, we need to keep monitoring and evaluating the possibility of pigs to become intermediate hosts of a future pandemic,” the Chinese team wrote in the study, as reported by South China Morning Post (SCMP).
The coronavirus that caused the worldwide COVID-19 pandemic is believed to have originated in horseshoe bats in southwest China, and could have spread to humans via a seafood market in Wuhan, where the virus was first identified.
The PNAS study said likewise pigs are considered important “mixing vessels” for the generation of pandemic influenza viruses and called for “systematic surveillance” of the problem.