Scientists in China have identified a new strain of the swine flu and warn that it has "pandemic potential." After the H1N1 swine flu caused a global pandemic in 2009, researchers have been monitoring pig populations across China.
Over seven years, they collected more than 30,000 nasal swab samples and identified 179 different swine flu viruses. While most of the strains did not pose any threat to humans, the scientists noticed that a single strain, named G4, was showing up year after year.
They conducted more tests on the G4 virus and found it was capable of spreading to humans. In China, researchers found that more than 10% of people who worked on pig farms tested positive for the virus between 2016-2018. It even spread to people living near those farms, with 4.4% of the general population testing positive in two provinces with a high number of pig farms.
While the virus is not able to spread from person to person, the researchers were worried because it continues to circulate through pig populations. They cautioned that the G4 virus has "all the essential hallmarks of a candidate pandemic virus" and could "pose a serious threat to human health" if it is not carefully monitored.
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