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Great, Now a Swine Flu Strain

A new strain of the H1N1 swine flu with pandemic potential has been identified in pigs in China, Agence France Presse reports.

Researchers led by China Agricultural University's Jinhua Liu examined influenza viruses found among pigs in 10 Chinese provinces between 2011 and 2018. As they report in the Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences this week, the researchers uncovered a Eurasian avian-like H1N1 virus with a G4 genotype — meaning it harbors both the 2009 pandemic (pdm/09) and triple-reassortant (TR) genes — circulating among pig farms. This strain, according to the researchers, has the "essential hallmarks of a candidate pandemic virus."

The researchers found the EA G4 H1N1 flu virus to be highly infective, noting that it replicated in human cells and caused severe symptoms among ferrets. In addition, the researchers report that about 10 percent of farm workers carried antibodies to the virus, suggesting animals can infect humans. However, AFP notes that there has been no evidence of person-to-person spread.

"It's something that still is in the stage of examination," Anthony Fauci, the director of the National Institute of Allergy and Infectious Diseases, told the Senate Health, Education, Labor, and Pensions Committee during a coronavirus hearing, according to CNBC. He added that it is not "an immediate threat where you're seeing infections, but it's something we need to keep our eye on, just the way we did in 2009 with the emergence of the swine flu."