A new type of swine flu that can infect human bodies and possess the potential to cause a future pandemic has been discovered by Chinese researchers. Though according to the scientists working on the same have claimed that the virus doesn’t pose an immediate global health threat.
The disease has been named G4 flu by the researchers and is said to be genetically descended from the H1N1 swine flu which has shown its ability to cause a pandemic in the year 2009. A study which was published in the scientific journal, Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences (PNAS) said that G4 flu shows all the essentials hallmark of a candidate pandemic virus.
A virologist at Columbia University’s public health school, Dr. Angela Rasmussen requested the public not to freak out. She also posted a twitter regarding this saying “Our understanding of what is the 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.”
So the bottom line is that 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.— Dr. Angela Rasmussen (@angie_rasmussen) June 29, 2020
The G4 virus was discovered by Chinese researchers based at several institutions, including the Chinese National Influenza Center and the Shandong Agricultural University during a pig surveillance program. More than 30 thousand nasal swab samples from pigs in veterinary teaching hospitals and slaughterhouses across 10 Chinese provinces were collected between the period of 2011 to 2018. Researchers could identify 179 swine influenza viruses from these samples but not all of them possessed the potential to raise concern or caution. Some of them either only existed for one year out of the complete program or eventually declined to nonthreatening levels. Concern rose when the G4 virus kept showing up in pigs every year and portrayed sharp growth in the swine population after the year 2016.
How infectious is the virus?
G4 shows the ability to bind with human cells and receptors, and it can reproduce quickly inside their airway cells and hence it proves to be very infectious to the human body. G4 holds the genes of H1N1 and hence the people who have received seasonal flu will not have any immunity.
It appears that some of the people in China have already been infected by G4. The places with high pig populations like Hebei and Shandong provinces where 10% of swine workers are on the pig farms and 4.4% of the local general population have tested positive in the surveys conducted from 2016 to 2018.
According to Carl Bergstrom who is a professor of biology at the University of Washington the virus doesn’t show any evidence to spread from person to person.
So are we facing the start of a double pandemic, COVID + influenza?— Carl T. Bergstrom (@CT_Bergstrom) June 29, 2020
There's no evidence that G4 is circulating in humans, despite five years of extensive exposure. That's the key context to keep in mind.
Researchers put up a warning that the virus was on a rise in pig population and can cause a serious threat to human health if not responsibly and carefully monitored. The transferal of this virus to humans from pigs can lead to severe infection and can even cause death and hence a greater call needs to be taken to control the virus spread within the pig population.
More about the virus!
In the year 2009, about 151,700 to 575,400 people were killed globally during the H1N1 swine flu pandemic. After that keen surveillance of pig, populations were conducted by scientists and authorities to keep a watch for viruses with pandemic potential. The people that are in contact with the infected pigs are likely to get infected from the virus.
G4 shares similarity of symptoms with regular human influenza and they are:
- Lack of appetite
- Running nose
- Sore throat
After 2009, the H1N1 got it is way back to the pig population through human spread across the globe and the genes mixed up and created new virus combinations and one of them is G4.
The head of Veterinary medicine at the University of Cambridge, Mr. James Wood said “Pig farming is a massive industry in China and pigs can be important hosts from which novel influenza viruses may emerge.” He also added that “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.”
The spread among the pigs’ population needs to be controlled by Chinese farmers and authorities to decrease the risk of a human pandemic. They also have to keep a close check on the people who work with the animals.
The world is already traumatized with the ongoing coronavirus which originated from China and an emergence of a new virus with pandemic potential cannot be worth ignoring……