China flu strain causes fresh alarm as WHO issues dire warning over pandemic

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The study, published on Monday by the National Academy of Sciences, claimed the pathogen was a worsening issue in pig farms. The paper added that the virus has “all the hallmarks” of being propitious for human transmission.

It comes ten years after a swine flu pandemic was estimated to have killed up to 284,000 people.

The researchers said the capability of the new pathogen – named G4 EA H1N1 – to acclimate would raise “concerns for the possible generation of pandemic viruses”.

Asked about the report at a briefing in Geneva today, WHO spokesman Christian Lindmeier said: “We will read carefully the paper to understand what is new.

“It also highlights we cannot let our guard down on influenza and need to be vigilant and continue surveillance even in the coronavirus pandemic.”

The study was carried out between 2011 and 2018.

Researchers took 30,000 nasal swabs from pigs in abattoirs in ten Chinese provinces and one veterinary facility.

“Close monitoring in human populations, especially the workers in the swine industry, should be urgently implemented,” the paper said.

“It is of concern that human infection of G4 virus will further human adaptation and increase the risk of a human pandemic.”

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From the tests, 179 different swine flu viruses were identified.

One of the viruses was G4 EA H1N1 which was later found to be highly contagious.

The alarm was raised when it was found that the immunity humans build up to regular seasonal flu does not protect against G4 EA H1N1.

Some abattoir workers – 10.4 percent – had developed the antibodies to fight off the new virus thanks to their exposure to it.

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Within the general population, only 4.4 percent were found to have gained the antibodies.

According to the findings, the pathogen can be transmitted from animals to humans, but it is unknown whether it can be transmitted between humans.

The Spanish flu pandemic in 1918 is thought to have been passed to humans from pigs.

The pandemic originated in America and it infected an army camp.

When the servicemen at the camp were sent out to France to fight in World War One, the virus started to spread across Europe.

Reiterating the WHO’s warning, Prof Kin-Chow Chang of the University of Nottingham told the BBC: “Right now we are distracted with coronavirus and rightly so.

“But we must not lose sight of potentially dangerous new viruses.”

Chinese Foreign Ministry spokesman Zhao Lijian was asked about the findings at a regular press briefing on Tuesday.

“China is closely following the developments in regard to this matter.” Mr Zhao said.

“We will take all necessary measures to prevent the spread and outbreak of any virus.”

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