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Swine flu with pandemic potentials discovered

Chinese researchers have discovered a new type of swine flu,the G4 virus, that can infect humans and has the potential to cause a future pandemic,according to a study published in the scientific journal Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences (PNAS).

The virus is genetically descended from the H1N1 swine flu that caused a pandemic in 2009 killing  an estimated 151,700 to 575,400 people globally. After the pandemic, the H1N1 virus in humans spread back into pigs around the world, and the genes mixed into new combinations — creating new viruses like G4.

Further tests showed that G4 can infect humans by binding to our cells and receptors, and it can replicate quickly inside our airway cells.People who have received seasonal flue vaccines won’t be immune to it,despite it holding H1N1 genes. 

However,some scientists claim that the virus won’t pose a threat. Dr. Angela Rasmussen, a virologist at Columbia University’s public health school, assured the public that they had nothing to worry about in a twitter post.

“Our understanding of what is a potential pandemic influenza strain is limited,Sure, this virus meets a lot of the basic criteria but it’s not for sure going to cause a hypothetical 2020 flu pandemic, or even be a dominant strain in humans.”

Chinese researchers based at several institutions, including the Chinese National Influenza Center and Shandong Agricultural University, discovered the G4 virus during a pig surveillance program. From 2011 to 2018, they collected more than 30,000 nasal swab samples from pigs in veterinary teaching hospitals and slaughterhouses across 10 Chinese provinces.
From the samples,179 swine influenza viruses were identified — but not all of them posed a concern. Some only showed up one year out of the program’s seven, or eventually declined to nonthreatening levels. But the G4 virus kept showing up in pigs, year after year — and even showed sharp increases in the swine population after 2016.
G4 already appears to have infected humans in China.From a survey  from 2016-2018, in Hebei and Shandong provinces,places with high pig numbers, more than 10% of swine workers on pig farms and 4.4% of the general population tested positive.
As of now,there is no evidence yet that G4 could spread from person to person — perhaps the most promising sign so far.According to Carl Bergstrom, a professor of biology at the University of Washington,no evidence of human-human transmission has been found despite five years of extensive exposure.

Still, researchers warn in the paper that the virus was on the rise among pig populations, and could “pose a serious threat to human health” if not carefully monitored. Transmission of the virus from pig to human could “lead to severe infection and even death.


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