We’re not even halfway through the coronavirus pandemic and already scientists have a stark warning: another one could be right around the corner. Why’s that, you ask? A new virus has been discovered in pigs that could potentially become a pandemic under the right conditions. Things just keep getting better and better!
- It’s being referred to as G4 EA H1N1. The flu virus, which exists in pigs, was recently discovered, BBC News reports, can apparently “grow and multiply in the cells that line human airways” should the virus spread from swine to humans. Researchers determined that there have been recent infections in people who worked in abattoirs in China between 2011 and 2018.
- The current flu vaccine doesn’t protect against G4. However, scientists believe that the vaccines could be adapted to include protection against it should that become necessary in future. In the meantime, scientists write in the Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences that the virus first needs to be controlled in pigs and workers who come in close contact with the animals need constant monitoring.
- It’s not an immediate concern at the moment. Researchers do admit that while the new mutation of swine flu doesn’t actually pose a major threat at the moment, it shouldn’t be ignored because it has “all the hallmarks” of being able to infect and spread quickly and widely among humans. Because of this, it should be closely monitored to assure it doesn’t proliferate.
- This should serve as a reminder that we must be vigilant. The identification of the G4 pig flu “comes as a salutary reminder,” says Professor James Wood, head of the Department of Veterinary Medicine at the University of Cambridge, that humanity is regularly under threat of new illnesses taking hold, especially given how much contact we have with farmed animals, which are regular carriers of the pathogens.
- The World Health Organization will be keeping an eye on this and other viruses. “Eurasian avian-like swine influenza virus are known to be circulating in the swine population in Asia and to be able to infect humans sporadically,” said a WHO spokesperson. “Twice a year during the influenza vaccine composition meetings, all information on the viruses is reviewed and the need for new candidate vaccine viruses is discussed. We will carefully read the paper to understand what is new. It also highlights that we cannot let down our guard on influenza; we need to be vigilant and continue surveillance even during the COVID-19 pandemic.”