New flu with ‘pandemic potential’ found in China

What to make of new H1N1 swine flu recently discovered in China.

New swine flu with ‘pandemic potential’ found in China

Alert but not alarmed: what to make of new H1N1 swine flu with 'pandemic potential' found in China


Researchers have found a new strain of flu virus with ‘pandemic potential’ in China that can jump from pigs to humans, triggering a suite of worrying headlines.

It’s excellent this virus has been found early, and raising the alarm quickly allows virologists to swing into action to develop new specific tests for this particular flu virus.

But it’s important to understand that, as yet, there is no evidence of human-to-human transmission of this particular virus. And while antibody tests found swine workers in China have had it in the past, there’s no evidence yet that it’s particularly deadly.

Read more: Victoria is on the precipice of an uncontrolled coronavirus outbreak. Will the new measures work?

What we know so far

China has a wonderful influenza surveillance system across all its provinces. They keep track of bird, human and swine flus because, as the researchers note in their paper, “systematic surveillance of influenza viruses in pigs is essential for early warning and preparedness for the next potential pandemic”.

In their influenza virus surveillance of pigs from 2011 to 2018, the researchers found what they called “a recently emerged genotype 4 (G4) reassortant Eurasian avian-like (EA) H1N1 virus”. In their paper, they call the virus G4 EA H1N1. It has been ticking over since 2013 and became the majority swine H1N1 virus in China in 2018.

In plain English, they discovered a new flu that’s a mix of our human H1N1 flu and an avian-based flu.

What’s interesting is antibody tests picked up that workers handling swine in these areas have been infected. Among those workers they tested, about 10 per cent (35 people out of 338 tested) showed signs of having had the new G4 EA H1N1 virus in the past. People aged between 18 to 35 years old seemed more likely to have had it.

Of note, though, was that a small percentage of general household blood samples from people who were expected to have had little pig contact were also antibody positive (meaning they had the virus in the past).

Importantly, the researchers found no evidence yet of human-to-human transmission. They did find “efficient infectivity and aerosol transmission in ferrets” – meaning there’s evidence the new virus can spread by aerosol droplets from ferret to ferret (which we often use as surrogates for humans in flu studies). G4-infected ferrets became sick, lost weight and acquired lung damage, just like those infected with one of our seasonal human H1N1 flu strains.

They also found the virus can infect human airway cells. Most humans don’t already have antibodies to the G4 viruses meaning most people’s immune systems don’t have the necessary tools to prevent disease if they get infected by a G4 virus.

In summary, this virus has been around a few years, we know it can jump from pigs to humans and it ticks all the boxes to be what infectious disease scholars call a PPP – a potential pandemic pathogen.

If a human does get this new G4 EA H1N1 virus, how severe is it?

We don’t have much evidence to work with yet but it’s likely people who got these infections in the past didn’t find it too memorable. There’s not a huge amount of detail in the new paper but of the people the researchers sampled, none died from this virus.

There’s no sign this new virus has taken off or spread in the regions of China where it was found. China has excellent virus surveillance systems and right now we don’t need to panic.

The World Health Organisation has said it is keeping a close eye on these developments and “it also highlights that we cannot let down our guard on influenza”.

Read more: Four unusual things we've learnt about the coronavirus since the start of the pandemic

What’s next?

People in my field – infectious disease research – are alert but not alarmed. New strains of flu do pop up from time to time and we need to be ready to respond when they do, watching carefully for signs of human-to-human transmission.

As far as I can tell, the specific tests we use for influenza in humans won’t identify this new G4 EA H1N1 virus, so we should design new tests and have them ready. Our general flu A screening test should work though.

In other words, we can tell if someone has what’s called “Influenza A” (one kind of flu virus we usually see in flu season) but that’s a catch-all term, and there are many strains of flu within that category. We don’t yet have a customised test to detect this new particular strain of flu identified in China. But we can make one quickly.

Being prepared at the laboratory level if we see strange upticks in influenza is essential and underscores the importance of pandemic planning, ongoing virus surveillance and comprehensive public health policies.

And as with all flus, our best defences are meticulous hand washing and keeping physical distance from others if you, or they, are at all unwell.The Conversation

Ian M. Mackay, Adjunct assistant professor, The University of Queensland

This article is republished from The Conversation under a Creative Commons licence. Read the original article.

Are you concerned by the discovery of this new H1N1 swine flu? Do you think we are likely to see an increase in viruses with ‘pandemic potential’ in the years to come?

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    Disclaimer: This article contains general information about health issues and is not advice. For health advice, consult your medical practitioner.


    To make a comment, please register or login
    9th Jul 2020
    We don't need these articles right now YLC's. And yes as long as humans keep putting animals in unnatural circumstances we will have more diseases.
    9th Jul 2020
    Actually we do need these articles. The more, hopefully, trusted information the better. The more information of this kind as early as possible in a virus outbreak, the earlier we can take action. I don't support the ostrich head in the sand approach!
    10th Jul 2020
    Elizzy, don't hold your breath for 'trusted information', we've never had it in the past and you can bet we won't be getting anything near truthful anytime soon either. The lamestream media has been caught out lying and making up stories over and over again. And just what actions would you propose taking anyway? If they plan on unleashing a new virus on us there's precious little you or I can do about it, so best we deal with it it if it even actually becomes "a thing". Articles like this only serve to keep us locked in fear and trepidation which is exactly what the PTB want as fear will make you obedient and compliant.
    11th Jul 2020
    This has been in the news for at least two-three weeks already.
    Life experience
    9th Jul 2020
    OMG. What next.
    I’m glad the world is basically shut down from travelling at the moment. Hopefully they will get on top of it before it spreads. I will never go to China. Not just because of virus’s originating there but because the Govt is corrupt.
    9th Jul 2020
    Hear hear Incognito. If chinese labs are so up there, why on earth haven't they mastered the art of germ control. Don't believe anything that comes China. Corrupt corrupts absolutely
    9th Jul 2020
    how do you know Chinese labs have not mastered germ control and a little outbreak now and then let's them gather real field data??? [cue x-files theme music]
    9th Jul 2020
    it's very confronting with some of Chinese & Asian heritage running around with face masks for the last 6 months when there were no cases here early on.
    I have been following this virus from the very beginning here are some facts & claims made over time from late September. The Chinese govn't has a lot of explaining of their actions. The most important issue is to save face! You would appreciate as a military man the first causality is the TRUTH.
    1 A group of doctors detected a new pneumonia and one of them became a spokesman to alert the world
    2 Nothing happens in China without direction from higher up
    3 The doctor was arrested for spreading spreading rumors and fake news.....he was forced to sign a retraction He later died of the virus. The others in the group have disappeared so we have only one side of the narrative......communist govn't version. It's like the police shoot to kill so there is only one side of the story
    4 Didn't realize Wuhan was a massive industrialized town the likes of Chicago of old. This city is home to a large Biological laboratory
    5 In Canada & USA investigation of Chinese scientists with their research staff for stealing vials of viruses samples and sending them back home.
    6 We have told that the virus is believed to originate from bats, snakes & fish in the wet market. No proof has been provided I don't believe this as this has the hallmarks of fake news
    7 China now claims that the USA brought in the virus to China by infected military participants in the military games held in late November & early December....... more fake news
    8 Japan kept passengers cooped up in a petri dish (Diamond Princes) increasing the virus infection rate before letting passengers return back to their homelands Yes they like to share around just like with the damaged nuclear reactors in Fukushima. Only show work has been done; their approach is the Pacific ocean is a big pond....... with contaminated water leaking out to the sea. Radioactive contamination has turned up on the west coasts of Canada & USA
    9 Two hospitals were constructed in a matter of 2 weeks ... a show action as PR for world consumption Only a third were ever filled. Now this emergency hospitals are being demolished.
    10 the Chinese govn't now claims no new infections except from Chinese returning home! ???
    11 Chinese govn't changed the accounting methods 4 times to reduce the toll figure numbers
    12 my observation. 1800 yrs ago the Islamists used the black death as a bio weapon against the Byzantine Empire (eastern Rome). Infected enemy don't fight very well and are easily defeated.
    13 Notice the characteristic of the virus is different from previous ones instead of infections and deaths are the same for all ages This one the mortality rate increases with age from a few that are young to over 15% for those over 70. People with years of smoking & asthmatics are particularly at risk of dying. Northern Italy & France have a high proportion that smoke....high mortality rate
    14 The major western leaders are over the age of 70
    15 Retirees are a burden to the social security Wonder why action by govn'ts has been tardy
    16 Older one is it is harder to brain wash
    17 China is renown for spreading fake news & claims
    18 notice that naming of the viral pandemic has changed from where the infection name where it as first detected examples is Spanish flu was first in Spain Hongkong flu was detected first in Hongkong. this virus should be named Wuhan flu/ SARS but in an attempt of not offending China it is being described by a medical designation instead
    So go figure what the plan is
    here is a youtube link that is interesting but cannot vouch the about the claims
    9th Jul 2020
    Interesting comments Phred, I will post this on the Virus thread,hope you don't mind, look here:
    11th Jul 2020
    Seriously Phred. Consipracy theories abound and it looks like you buy into them all. Even when what you write are just lies. UK Prime Minister is in his 50s, Mr Macron of France is 42,
    Mr Steinmeier of Germany is 64, Mr Trudeau of Canada is 48, Mr Conte of Italy is 55, Mr Abe of Japan is 64 and only Mr Trump is over 70. That accounts for all of the G7 countries and the major Western Leaders. Spain's PM is only 48, Mr Putin is 67, even Mr Xi of China is only 67, and our own Mr Morrison is only 52! I suggest you do a little more research and bring yourself up to date if you are going to disparage leaders on the strength of how old you think they are. There has clearly been a change of the gusrd since you last looked.

    AND FGS, just because some people may have a Chinese or other Asian heritage does NOT make them 'less' Australian then you whether they wear face masks or not.
    9th Jul 2020
    Yes, what's next?
    To quote T.S. Eliot:
    "This is the way the world ends
    Not with a bang but a whimper."
    9th Jul 2020
    We are more likely to die from nuclear warheads or climate induced famine unless we fix both asap.
    Life experience
    9th Jul 2020
    No wonder your incognito
    9th Jul 2020
    China - virus capital of the world! I wonder what Confucius would have thought of modern China?
    9th Jul 2020
    Communist China - for the reasons in this article, and for many other reasons, a giant pox on the world.
    9th Jul 2020
    If humans would stop tolerating the horrible conditions our "Meat" animals are kept in, perhaps we wouldn't see the spread of such viruses. But while people continue to believe that meat and poultry is only provided on plastic trays in the supermarket or butcher without understanding what gets them there in the first place, unusual viruses will continue to develop and spread. I'm not a raving vego, before you start on me, but the treatment of the animals who provide our meat, poultry and seafood most DEFINITELY needs to be taken into consideration. Don't push all the blame on China for ill-treatment of food animals - I think we have seen enough proof of ill-treatment in our own fair country of OZ. It's about how "food animals" are treated.
    Instead, this thread seems to have turned into an anti-China rant. that's sad.
    9th Jul 2020
    I agree Jennyb and with the second part of Incognito's post. We are not talking about the peasant who has one pig to kill to get the family through the winter. We are talking about the billions of animals raised and killed for their flesh worldwide every year. Not to mention the arable land wasted on cultivating food for cattle, sheep, pigs, etc. No room to talk about the conditions of raising and killing animals for their flesh. This is a major topic for thought and action as a result of covid19.
    10th Jul 2020
    So the WHO are keeping their eyes on this? What use is that to us? They only only pass on what China tells them to and as with the covid virus they change their minds and give out contradictory information. And as for saying that China has excellent virus surveillance systems We wouldn't know about that as they pick and choose just what information they release to the world.
    10th Jul 2020
    Communism is the extreme form of Marxist Socialism of which the UN and WHO are in league with the EU, all said to be attempting to control the world as the so called New World Order, a new wave Communism.
    Their aim is to destroy the fabric of social cohesion and then take over as I have been reading over the years and this has been an insidious process of appealing to the younger and low educated with so called 'cool' methods of pro abortion, pro euthanasia, pro gay marriages, pro veganism, pro trans gendering, pro carbon taxing for revenue raising and so on!
    As Hillary Clinton said in one of her election speeches, ".....most people are stupid. They'll believe anything!"
    10th Jul 2020
    Phred's long comment is quite correct and in keeping with my views.
    However, it is not just those of Asian origins who are seen to be wearing masks but also people like myself who are better informed and respectful of others who have been wearing masks in public.
    I have even on a few occasions have told another to please keep their distance from me!
    Other countries have made mask wearing mandatory and fined if not!
    The other issue still prevalent and also seen with countries and areas of high Muslim migrants or refugees, there has been a huge second increase or spike in the number of cases and weather patterns have nothing to do with it or otherwise Tasmania would be worse off than Victoria!
    Countries with a high Muslim population have had higher numbers in both the first and second spikes as well as consistently all year.
    As a nurse, I was shocked at the end of January when only 2 out of 20 pharmacies each had 30 masks left which I had purchased as I knew that this scenario was impending but also because the pharmacy assistants told me that you only need to wear masks if you're sick!
    I replied that as a nurse, I knew this to be the other way around so please WEAR A MASK IN PUBLIC!
    They are more available now although at a higher price because we only have ONE SMALL MANUFACTURER IN THE WHOLE OF AUSTRALIA!
    China had manufactured almost the masks globally until their lockdown which is why they became scarce as well as because the Australian Chinese were driving from many suburbs away to purchase them all as they later did with food and other supplies before the Australians woke up!
    This was related to me by a few of the pharmacies I had visited, sadly.
    10th Jul 2020
    My concern with mask wearing is breathing in the chemicals in the mask. Especially if they are made in China! And feeling like I cannot breath, I try to wear them when cleaning dust in the home but find it hard to breath and get anxious, so not sure if it suits everyone, I will just have to stay home if they bring in mandatory mask wearing, not that I am going out, only for walks, post office, supermarket and any other supplies I cannot get delivered cheaply or conveniently.
    11th Jul 2020
    And the vast majority of those I see wearing masks are not wearing them correctly which make them next to useless.
    26th Jul 2020
    Re the supply of masks.....there are quite a few online sites that give instructions how to make your own. You dont need heaps of material to make them, if you don't have cotton fabric, look through items in your wardrobe that you may have been intending to send off for recycling, there may be something there you can chop up. You don't need advanced sewing skills to make them and if you make a few you can change them often, washing them often.....and don't forget sunlight is a good "disinfectant" .....dry them in the sun! This also takes care of Incognitos concerns re "chemicals".
    26th Jul 2020
    There is heaps of information about masks on this thread:
    10th Jul 2020
    Shouldn't be an issue if you are wearing a mask in public and use all other precautions!
    10th Jul 2020
    Shouldn't be an issue if you are wearing a mask in public and use all other precautions!
    10th Jul 2020
    It is utterly despicable the way they keep these poor Animals
    10th Jul 2020
    I agree and all the other animals kept in confinement is breeding diseases and viruses, has been increasing since man started keeping animals confined.
    10th Jul 2020
    the animals in the photo are being transported in the tray of a ute
    10th Jul 2020
    Q. Why has there been such an upsurge in potentially fatal viruses this century? A. Because it is a cheap, simple and effective way to conduct warfare. Its range is unlimited, and only requires a few agents to distribute it. However, you need to have an antidote to prevent it boomeranging onto yourself. By this method you can destroy economies as well as populations.
    It is interesting to note that, although the latest virus originated in China, the reported number of deaths was very low for the size of the population. While it could be claimed they prevented its spread through lockdown, could it be that they also have an antidote, and because China is such a secretive state, we will never know. Our problem is that we follow the Chinese handbook on how to deal with the virus, and this does not appear to be very successful in most countries. Even in Australia, which has been spared the excesses of Europe and the US, and for which we should wholeheartedly thank God, there is no plan how to get out of this mess. We need to be acting now, and, as a vaccine may take a long time coming, be expensive, and have possible side effects, we should be increasing the immunity of the population to thwart future attacks. Surely it is not beyond the wit of virologists and health officials to think pro-actively, not re-actively as in the case of Victoria. Unless we do so, we are at the mercy of all these dealers in death.
    10th Jul 2020
    Good point about the antidote, why they could save all the Chinese and kill off the westerners and make it easier to take over the world.

    My other concern is why do we still have labs making and storing biological warfare agents. There is apparently still stores of small pox and other viruses which could be accidentally or deliberately unleashed on to the world, cheaper way to reduce the population.
    10th Jul 2020
    And YLC is not helping. What makes you people at YLC think that this piece of news is helpful or edifying in any way?
    It is barely even newsworthy given that there is NO evidence of any transmission at all. I get so sick of irresponsible would be journalists spewing out this kind of garbage.... just listen to this rubbish "triggering a suite of worrying headlines" .... yeah YOU at YLC are the ones adding angst, worry and anxiety to an already stressed out population with a load of maybe's, perhaps, and what if's. All you are doing is compounding the fear that already exists in the hearts and minds of so many and it is totally unwarranted and uncalled for. Nobody needs to know this. If and when it it arrives here we'll deal with it then. Stop acting as a mouthpiece for the lame stream media, unless that's exactly what you are. I'm disgusted with this trash piece.
    10th Jul 2020
    Yes we need more positive and happy stories, go to GoodNewsNetwork to read some.
    10th Jul 2020
    Incognito... thanks for that. Popped over for a squizzy, it's now bookmarked for quick access. I think the folks at YLC think they are doing us some kind of good service, but with stories like this they are actually doing the opposite. Laughter is the best medicine.
    10th Jul 2020
    No worries, enjoy, it helps to counteract all the bad news we hear all the time. Sad the world wants to hear bad news more and is click bait on the internet too.

    Tags: health, flu,

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