n Monday, Chinese researchers released a study that found a new strain of H1N1 or Swine flu with ‘pandemic potential.’
What we know:
- The Swine flu was the first influenza outbreak of the 21st century, noted for its rapid global spread and its high degree of viral contagiousness. Unprecedented rates of passenger travel further expedited the global spread. The virus caused a respiratory disease that was similar to seasonal influenza.
- According to the World Health Organization, samples from affected individuals, particularly in developing countries, reached 622,482 cases and 18,500 deaths in the year 2009. The swine flu came to a halt around April 2010 and has continued to be at a standstill with yearly flu vaccinations.
- As the H1N1 virus has come to a halt, and coronavirus has been at the forefront, Chinese researchers discovered a new strain of the H1N1 virus named G4. Researchers have said that the virus has the potential to become the next pandemic in the coming years.
- The Shandong Agricultural University and the Chinese National Influenza Center 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 slaughterhouses and veterinary teaching hospitals across 10 Chinese provinces.
- The collected swabs led to the discovery of 179 strains of swine flu. The G4 strain, however, was the only one to show up year after year and even showed sharp increases by 2016. Further tests showed that G4 could infect humans by binding to our cells and receptors, and it can replicate quickly inside our airway cells. And though G4 holds H1N1 genes, people who have received seasonal flu vaccines won’t have any immunity. The G4 virus has already infected more than 10% swine workers and 4.4% of the general population.
- Dr. Angela Rasmussen, a virologist at Columbia University’s public health school, warned the public not to freak out. “Our understanding of what is a potential pandemic influenza strain is limited,” she posted on Twitter. “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.””
Researchers say that tests have only shown prominence in pig to pig transmission, there is not yet enough evidence to tell whether human transmission is on the rise.