A few days ago, news broke of a new strain of flu coming from China.

Researchers in China have discovered a new type of swine flu that is capable of triggering a pandemic, according to a study published Monday in the U.S. scientific journal PNAS. Named G4, it is genetically descended from the H1N1 strain that caused a pandemic in 2009.

It possesses “all the essential hallmarks of being highly adapted to infect humans,” say the authors, scientists at Chinese universities and China’s Center for Disease Control and Prevention.

The World Health Organization said Tuesday that it would “read carefully” the study on the new virus, with a spokesman saying the findings highlighted the importance of the world not letting “our guard down on influenza.”

The new strain is classified as H1N1, which is like the highly transmissible version spread around the world in 2009, killing about 285,000 people and morphing into seasonal flu.

The newer strain, known as G4 EA H1N1, has been common on China’s pig farms since 2016 and replicates efficiently in human airways, according to the study published on Monday. So far, it has infected some people without causing disease, but health experts fear that could change without warning.

“G4 viruses have all the essential hallmarks of a candidate pandemic virus,” the study said, adding that controlling the spread in pigs and closely monitoring human populations “should be urgently implemented.”

The study, published online in the journal Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences, is based on the surveillance of pigs in 10 Chinese provinces from 2011 to 2018. In the last three years of the study, researchers collected 338 blood samples from workers on 15 pig farms and 230 from people in nearby households.

…Predicting risk is not a precise science, but close attention to the virus would be advisable, said Ian H. Brown, the head of the virology department at Britain’s Animal and Plant Health Agency and one of two scientists who reviewed the paper before it was published.

“It may be that with further change in the virus it could become more aggressive in people much as SARS-CoV-2 has done,” Dr. Brown said in an email on Tuesday, referring to the new coronavirus.

In a sign that the Wuhan Coronavirus may soon become “old news,” a very vocal member of President Donald Trump’s Coronavirus Tak Force is now tying the new strain to both the 2009 Swine flu and the 19818 Spanish Influenza that killed 50 million people worldwide.

White House coronavirus advisor Dr. Anthony Fauci said Tuesday that U.S. health officials are keeping an eye on a new strain of flu carried by pigs in China that has characteristics of the 2009 H1N1 virus and 1918 pandemic flu.

The virus, which scientists are calling “G4 EA H1N1,” has not yet been shown to infect humans but it is exhibiting “reassortment capabilities,” Fauci, director of the National Institute of Allergy and Infectious Diseases, told the Senate Health, Education, Labor and Pensions Committee during a hearing.

“In other words, when you get a brand new virus that turns out to be a pandemic virus it’s either due to mutations and/or the reassortment or exchanges of genes,” he told lawmakers. “And they’re seeing virus in swine, in pigs now, that have characteristics of the 2009 H1N1, of the original 1918, which many of our flu viruses have remnants of that in it, as well as segments from other hosts, like swine.”

Granted, Fauci is technically correct about the class of the virus. However, connecting this virus to the widely feared historic strain of 2018 provided the media with fresh fodder of its continual pandemic panic cycle.

Furthermore, during the national COVID shut-down, Fauci was notorious for making the Sunday talk show circuits, countering many of the President’s statements, and ginning up fear about the coronavirus that has proven to be unfounded. I would not be surprised to see him make more media rounds this fall, focusing on this new flu.

While it is good to be diligent during all flu seasons, there is also no need for us to participate in endless cycles of pandemic panic just because its the 2020 election season.

 

 
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