Researchers have identified a new flu virus in pigs in China which they say has the potential to become a global pandemic.
The new strain of swine flu, which is being called G4 EA H1N1, began to spread rapidly in 2016 among pigs in China and scientists say it has “all the hallmarks” of being able to spread to humans.
The research, which began two years after the 2009 swine flu pandemic, is published in the peer-reviewed scientific journal Proceedings of the National Academy of Science.
While scientists say it doesn’t currently pose an immediate threat, “we should not ignore it”.
"Right now we are distracted with coronavirus and rightly so. But we must not lose sight of potentially dangerous new viruses,” Nottingham University’s Prof Kin-Chow Chang told the BBC.
Researchers fear the virus could mutate further, giving it the potential to spread easily between humans.
Testing has revealed that over 10 per cent of workers in the swine industry has tested positive for antibodies of the virus.
G4 can grow and multiply in the cells in the human airways.
“Such infectivity greatly enhances the opportunity for virus adaptation in humans and raises concerns for the possible generation of pandemic viruses,” the paper says.
It says the control of the virus and the close monitoring of workers should be “urgently implemented”.
Current flu vaccines appear to not protect people against the new strain.
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