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Flu virus with “pandemic potential” identified in pigs in China

A new strain of influenza with the potential to become a pandemic has been identified by Chinese scientists.

1 July 2020, at 7:00am

According to reporting in the BBC, the virus is carried by pigs, but is potentially infectious to humans.

Researchers studying the virus are concerned that it could mutate further, enhancing its transmission rate among humans and potentially triggering a global outbreak.

Though the scientists stress that it is not an immediate problem, they told the BBC that this strain of flu has “all the hallmarks” of being highly adapted to infect humans and needs to be monitored closely.

The scientists write in the journal Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences that measures to control the virus in pigs, and the close monitoring of swine industry workers, should be swiftly implemented.

The virus, which has been named G4 EA H1N1, can grow and multiply in human respiratory cells. Researchers found evidence of infections in swine abattoir workers in China.

Existing flu vaccines do not appear to protect against it, although researcher believe they could be adapted to do so if necessary.

Prof Kin-Chow Chang, who works at Nottingham University in the UK, told the BBC: "Right now we are distracted with coronavirus and rightly so. But we must not lose sight of potentially dangerous new viruses."

While this new virus is not an immediate problem, he says: "We should not ignore it."

Read the full story on the BBC.