An emergent strain of flu in China is attracting the attention of scientists just as the world is wrestling with the worst pandemic since the 1918 Spanish flu.
Chinese researchers identified a novel strain of influenza that is infecting pigs in China and that has characteristics of the so-called swine flu, or H1N1, that resulted in the 2009 pandemic.
Researchers earlier this week published a report in peer-reviewed science journal Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences, or PNAS, that identifies a strain of flu — G4 EA H1N1 — that has traits akin to H1N1 and could be transmitted to humans.
The scientists, who conducted research on Chinese pig populations in various provinces from 2011 to 2018, described the novel flu as having all the necessary attributes for a pandemic.
“G4 viruses have all the essential hallmarks of a candidate pandemic virus,” the report read. “Controlling the prevailing G4 EA H1N1 viruses in pigs and close monitoring in human populations, especially the workers in swine industry, should be urgently implemented,” the researchers wrote.
The U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention defines swine flu as a respiratory disease of pigs caused by type A influenza viruses that regularly cause outbreaks of influenza in pigs.
Talk of a emergent illness comes as the world is dealing with SAR-COV2, the novel strain of coronavirus that causes the COVID-19 respiratory illness that was first identified in Wuhan, China, in December.
There are more than 10 million confirmed cases of COVID-19 worldwide and at least 507,014 people have died, according to data aggregated by Johns Hopkins University. The U.S. continues to lead the world, with a case tally of 2.6 million and death toll of 126,360. The data have been revised down since this morning.
On Tuesday, The U.S.’s top infectious disease expert, Dr. Anthony Fauci, said that there’s “the possibility that you might have another swine flu-type outbreak as we had in 2009,” in testimony to a Senate committee about the state of the COVID-19 pandemic.
“It’s something that still is in the stage of examination,” the public-health expert said. Fauci said the flu was not “an immediate threat where you’re seeing infections, but it’s something we need to keep our eye on, just the way we did in 2009 with the emergence of the swine flu.”