Chinese scientists have cautioned that pigs are a ‘primary intermediate host’ or ‘mixing vessel’ for viruses that spread to humans from wild animals, and could cause another pandemic if not taken seriously.
Researchers from the Chinese Academy of Sciences have been researching swine flu outbreaks in pig farms around the country and claim that the new strain will spread to humans while only two people have been reported to have contracted the virus, called G4 EA H1N1, since the first outbreak in 2016.
Researchers who say the disease is ‘highly adapted’ to infect people are now calling for monitoring farms and people working on or near them as further transmission may cause the virus to ‘adapt and become a pandemic.’
The two cases of an EA H1N1 virus similar to the G4 were a 46-year-old and a 9-year-old.
‘Epidemiological survey found that the two patients had neighbours who reared pigs, suggesting that G4 EA virus could transmit from swine to human, and lead to severe infection and even death.’
They found symptoms such as fever, sneezing, wheezing, and coughing all common during the virus ferrets tests.
From 2011 to 2018, George Gao, Jinhua Liu and colleagues isolated 179 pig viruses across 10 provinces in China to research the threats they present to humans, and found that since 2016, most of the viruses detected in farmed pigs exhibited characteristics that you would expect from the population during a pandemic.
According to the scientists, just 10.4 per cent of the 300 samples taken from pig farmers on 15 different pig farms had antibodies against this virus strain.
This means the virus poses a particularly strong chance of pandemic spread according to the scientists.
‘All of this evidence indicates that G4 EA H1N1 virus is a growing problem in pig farms, and the widespread circulation of G4 viruses in pigs inevitably increases their exposure to humans,’ study authors wrote in their paper.