New Swine Flu Strain That Could Possibly Spread to Humans Discovered in China

The coronavirus pandemic has proven to be more challenging to handle than anyone could have expected, as many states across the country are seeing significant spikes in positive cases over the past two weeks. To make matters worse, a potential second pandemic may have been discovered as pigs in China are showing strains of influenza as a possible swine flu looms after research published in the Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences and shared on Science Mag.

The latest findings see Chinese pigs frequently showing signs of a strain that could impact humans. A retired influenza investigator from St. Jude’s Children’s Research Hospital, Robert Webster, called it a “guessing game” as to the strain’s capabilities of potentially being able to transmit to humans. He said it’s too difficult to determine if a pandemic could occur until one actually hits. The virus in question has been labeled G4 E1 H1N1, which features three unique lineages, one of which is similar to the H1N1 strain that led to the last pandemic in 2009. The reason this one is catching some attention and concern is that the G4 strain consists of avian influenza virus, which is something that humans have no immunity to. Edward Holmes, an evolutionary biologist from the University of Sydney in Australia, explained that “this is a swine influenza virus that is poised to emerge in humans,” adding that the situation must be closely followed.

The study behind this virus has been in the works for a decade, with samples being taken from 30,000 nasal swabs from pigs across slaughterhouses in 10 provinces and 1,000 samples from pigs at China Agricultural University. In their study, they discovered that the strain reproduces in the respiratory system and spreads among animals through airborne particles. What stood out the most in the lab findings was how easily it spreads among ferrets, which are used as indicators for how it can transmit among humans since the two share similar symptoms.

Scientists and researchers will actively monitor this virus in hopes of preventing it from becoming the next pandemic. In regards to the current crisis going on in the world, the coronavirus has begun to strike the states harder than it previously did when the country first shut down three months ago. A record was set over five consecutive days, with 44,782 new cases being announced on Saturday as states like Florida, Texas and California are among the hardest-hit areas.