By Arré Bench Jun. 30, 2020
A new strain of swine flu with “pandemic potential” – G4 – has been discovered by researchers in China. It is spreading to humans. Should we be afraid?
The coronavirus pandemic has shown no signs of slowing down. But even as cases across the world cross 10 million, an alarming headline on Tuesday announced that another disease with “pandemic potential” had been identified.
According to reports from China, scientists have found a new flu that has the potential to spread easily between people if it mutates.
The flu, which is genetically descended from the H1N1 strain (or Swine Flu) and is named G4, has already caught the attention of the global health community.
— Dr. Dena Grayson (@DrDenaGrayson) June 29, 2020
While saying that it isn’t an immediate problem, the study published in the Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences has warned that “G4” has “all the essential hallmarks of being highly adapted to infect humans”.
The scientists also indicated that if this was to happen, we would have little to no immunity against this virus, unlike the case with the swine flu pandemic.
The swine flu had turned out to be less deadly than initially feared because of this immunity, reports said. “G4” on the other hand is said to be highly infectious, replicating in human cells, and causing more serious symptoms in ferrets than other viruses do.
Since the report was published, there have been a few calls to not panic, with doctors taking to social media to explain in detail what “pandemic potential” actually meant.
— Dr. Angela Rasmussen (@angie_rasmussen) June 29, 2020
Still, the disease has raised some concerns among health experts. A professor quoted in the BBC said, “Right now we are distracted with coronavirus and rightly so. But we must not lose sight of potentially dangerous new viruses.”
Chinese pigs are becoming infected with a new influenza strain that has the potential to jump to humans if it isn't contained now.
It's called G4 EA H1N1.
We need leadership. We need global collaboration. https://t.co/wbdp8lkoTW
— Amy Webb (@amywebb) June 30, 2020
These fears are justified considering there is some evidence that the disease had already been transmitted to a few abattoir workers in China. The authors of the study said that it’s now important to monitor people who work with pigs in the region.
Hopefully, the fact that the virus has been identified in such an early stage means that it can be contained equally effectively. The last thing the world needs right now is another pandemic.