A new flu strain with 'pandemic potential' has emerged in China - everything we know so far

Tuesday, 30th June 2020, 11:25 am
Updated Tuesday, 30th June 2020, 11:31 am
A new strain of swine flu has emerged in China-based in pigs (Getty Images)
A new strain of swine flu has emerged in China-based in pigs (Getty Images)

Researchers have identified a strain of flu in China that has potential to become pandemic.

Carried by pigs, the virus has emerged recently and is capable of infecting humans.

Though not an immediate risk, researchers have warned that the virus has “all the hallmarks” to mutate and transmit more easily between humans.

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Due to its recent emergence people will have no immunity to the flu strain.

According to the BBC, the Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences (PNAS) have advised the immediate introduction of tight monitoring controls for the swine industry and its workers.

Must not lose sight of new viruses

The emergence of the new strain comes against a backdrop of a planet still reeling from the effects of the Covid-19 pandemic.

Though Covid-19 remains at the forefront of epidemiologists, the new flu strain has caught the attention of health experts.

Flu viruses are perpetually changing, but they don’t typically evolve into a virus capable of sparking a pandemic.

Despite this Professor Kin-Chow Chang urged caution, telling BBC: "Right now we are distracted with coronavirus and rightly so. But we must not lose sight of potentially dangerous new viruses."

Should I be worried?

The new virus, known as G4 EA H1N1 is capable of multiplying in the cells which line the human respiratory system.

Current flu vaccines aren’t capable of protecting against the virus, but could be adapted to do so. The current flu vaccine was adapted following the swine flu outbreak of 2009.

Professor Kin-Chow Chang and fellow researchers who highlighted the inital discovery have warned that though the virus is not an immediate threat it must be monitored closely.

Dr. Angela Rasmussen, a virologist at Columbia University's public health school urged calm.

She tweeted: "our understanding of what is a potential pandemic influenza strain is limited," she posted on Twitter. "Sure, this virus meets a lot of the basic criteria but it's not for sure going to cause a hypothetical 2020 flu pandemic, or even be a dominant strain in humans."