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New swine flu detected in China has potential for a pandemic

Chinese researchers have identified a new form of swine flu that can cause a pandemic, according to a report published in the US science journal PNAS Monday.

Named G4, it has been genetically inherited from the H1N1 strain which caused a 2009 pandemic.

Scientist at Chinese universities, and the Chinese Disease Control and Prevention Center, says, It has "all the essential characteristics of being highly developed to infect people.’’

Researchers have taken 30,000 nasal swabs from pigs in slaughterhouses in 10 Chinese provinces and a veterinary hospital from 2011 to 2018, enabling them to isolate 179 swine flu viruses.

The scientists then performed numerous trials including on ferrets that are commonly used in flu studies because they experience similar symptoms to humans — mainly nausea, coughing and sneezing.

Tests have shown that any human immunity acquired from seasonal flu exposure does not offer protection from G4.

10.4 per cent of swine workers had already been infected, according to blood tests that turned up antibodies produced by virus exposure. The virus has already spread from animals to humans but there is no evidence yet that it can be transmitted from human to human — the key concern of the scientists.

The writers have called for immediate action to track pig-workers. ‘‘The work comes as a salutary reminder that we are constantly at risk of new emergence of zoonotic pathogens and that farmed animals, with which humans have greater contact than with wildlife, may act as the source for important pandemic viruses," said James Wood, head of the department of veterinary medicine at Cambridge University.

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