A study by Chinese researchers reports a new strain of the swine flu has started to spread across workers in China and needs to be controlled. The new strain is carried by pigs, but, there is some added concern because it can also affect humans. While the report says it is not an immediate problem, the researchers do say it has the workings to adapt and spread from human to human and needs to be closely monitored.
The reports, which was published in the Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences, also reiterates the importance of controlling the virus in pigs and monitoring the swine industry workers closely. On top of keeping other diseases at bay such African swine fever and foot and mouth disease, the United States swine industry will have to stay up to date and diligent.
The new strand comes from the H1N1 virus that was a highly transmissible virus that started in 2009. The new virus, which the researchers call G4 EA H1N1, started to show up in 2016 and can grow and multiply in the cells that line the human airways. Currently, the flu vaccine does not protect against this strand, but could be adapted to do so if needed, according to the BBC.
According to the study, “Further serological surveillance among occupational exposure population showed that 10.4% (35/338) of swine workers were positive for G4 EA H1N1 virus, especially for participants 18 y to 35 y old, who had 20.5% (9/44) seropositive rates, indicating that the predominant G4 EA H1N1 virus has acquired increased human infectivity. Such infectivity greatly enhances the opportunity for virus adaptation in humans and raises concerns for the possible generation of pandemic viruses.”
According to the New York Times, “The study was sent for review in early December, weeks before the coronavirus outbreak in the Chinese city of Wuhan began making global headlines.”
Again, researchers say this is just a warning, but that we can’t let our guard down on influenza and need to keep an eye on it.