General, Research, Technology

A new strain of swine flu has been revealed in China. Is a new pandemic threatening the world?

2020 seems to be no good news for us: According to a study published in the journal Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences, a new strain of swine flu virus H1N1 is spreading in China. The virus has been walking the world since 2009, at least 285,000 people have become its victims. Over time, it began to turn into seasonal flu, but the new strain - G4EA H1N1 - has been distributed on pig farms in China since 2016 and is effectively propagated in the human respiratory tract. Until now, the virus has infected mainly pig farmers, and the disease has been mild, but experts fear that the situation could change at any time. The authors of the work note that the spread of the virus must be urgently contained, otherwise the world may face another pandemic.

Since 2009, the swine flu pandemic has claimed nearly 300,000 lives

Swine flu mutated

Swine Flu - Highly Contagious (Infectious)infectious disease caused by pandemic influenza A virus (H1N1). The virus is transmitted from pig to person and spreads efficiently between people. Symptoms of the H1N1 flu are similar to those of a normal flu, with fever, cough, runny nose, and some patients also have vomiting, diarrhea, and abdominal pain. In the case of a severe course of the disease, deaths are possible.

“G4 viruses have all the essentialssigns of a potentially pandemic virus, ”the authors of the study write, recalling the need to introduce control over the spread of the virus in pigs and closely monitor the circulation of G4EA H1N1 in humans. The study is based on monitoring pigs in 10 Chinese provinces from 2011 to 2018. Over the past three years, 338 blood samples were collected from workers in 15 pig farms and 230 from residents of nearby households.

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Swine flu virus infects pigs and farm workers

The results revealed a positive result onantibodies to G4EA H1N1 in 10.4% of workers and in 4.4% of residents near pig farms. It is noteworthy that a positive antibody test in workers aged 18 to 35 years was found 20.5% more often than among other age groups and residents of nearby villages. Read about the consequences of the pandemic in our material.

Risk prediction is not an exact science,however, close attention to the virus is needed. It cannot be ruled out that being transmitted between people, G4EA H1N1 can mutate and become more aggressive, as SARS-CoV-2, which causes COVID-19, did. This is a very important study and the virus looks quite dangerous. We must worry about any disease that can spread from person to person.

Ian H. Brown, head of the virology department at the British Animal and Plant Health Agency, as well as one of two reviewers of the article before publication.

How dangerous is G4EA H1N1?

According to The New York Times, the study wassent for review in early December, a few weeks before the outbreak of coronavirus in the Chinese city of Wuhan hit the headlines of world newspapers. The next important task of scientists is to find out if pig farmers were infected by their colleagues, and if the virus was spread to family members and neighbors.

The work also indicates that Eurasian variationsH1N1 has been circulating in pigs in Europe and Asia for decades, but the G4 strain in pigs raised on Chinese farms with respiratory symptoms was much more common after 2014. New evidence suggests that the G4EA H1N1 virus is a growing problem in pig farms, and the widespread circulation of the G4 strain in pigs inevitably increases human exposure to viral particles.

This is how pig farm disinfection looks like in China

Why do you think the foci of new viral diseases in recent years are in China? We will wait for the answer here as well as in the comments to this article!

The study was conducted in collaboration withgovernment agencies in China, including researchers from the Center for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), experts from the World Health Organization (WHO), and scientists from several universities in China and the University of Nottingham in the UK.

H1N1 virus, which pandemic broke out in 2009year, had a relatively low mortality rate, experts estimate it at 0.02%. For comparison, researchers estimate mortality from the 1918 influenza pandemic at 2.5% of the total number of victims. Nevertheless, the Spaniard claimed the lives of approximately 50 million, and maybe more, since the virus infected a huge number of people and spread at a time when medical care was much less effective. For more information on what the Spanish flu pandemic can teach us while the coronavirus is raging, read the article by my colleague Daria Yeletskaya. Determining the mortality rate from the new coronavirus is a key question for epidemiologists, but they will not be able to answer it until the pandemic is over.