Global Health Press

‘It’s not a new virus’: WHO expert after study warns of new H1N1 strain in China with pandemic potential

Credit: Andrew Martin / Pixabay

A World Health Organisation (WHO) expert has sought to calm fears following the disclosure that a new strain of the H1N1 swine flu virus, which has pandemic potential, was spreading fast among workers on Chinese pig farms. A group of scientists had warned that the virus should be “urgently” brought under control to prevent the start of another pandemic even as the world continues to battle the novel coronavirus or COVID-19.

It may be recalled that H1N1, a highly contagious virus, had spread around the globe in 2009 and killed nearly 285,000 people. It then went on to transform into a seasonal flu. The WHO expert, however, said that the virus strain – G4 EA H1N1 – was not a new virus and it has been under close surveillance.

Michael Ryan, executive director of the WHO Health Emergencies Program, said Eurasian avian-like H1N1 swine influenza virus has “been under surveillance by Chinese authorities and by the global influenza surveillance network around the world.” “This is a finding from surveillance that’s been carried out over many years,” he added.

“It’s been under surveillance since 2011 and in fact, the most recent publication is a publication of all of that surveillance data over that time and obviously reporting both on the evolution of this virus within the swine population but also in terms of occupational exposures to workers over that time,” Ryan explained.

The study published recently by the US journal, Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences (PNAS), said that Chinese researchers had looked into influenza viruses found in pigs from 2011 to 2018 and discovered the variant genotype 4 Eurasian avian-like H1N1 virus (G4 EA H1N1).

“We constantly need to stay on the alert. We need to continue to carry out very very good surveillance on this G4 genotype and we expect that will continue in the coming months and years,” Ryan said further.

“It’s very important work, carried out in collaboration with the WHO collaborating center at China CDC, including the WHO collaborating center for influenza at (US) CDC in Atlanta, and again shows the vital importance of the global influenza surveillance and response system,” he added.

The assurance came even as the study claimed “G4 viruses have all the essential hallmarks of a candidate pandemic virus”. The study stressed that it was important to “urgently” control the spread in pigs and closely monitor human populations.

Source: Times Now News

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