H1N1, a highly transmissible disease that spread around the world in 2009, killed approximately 200,000 people and morphed into seasonal flu. Published Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences have brought to limelight a study regarding the surveillance of pigs in 10 Chinese provinces from 2011 to 2018 which reveals a newer strain of the virus, G4 EA H1N1, that has been discovered to have the capabilities to wreak havoc around the globe. The study discovered that this virus was widespread in Chinese pig farms since 2016 and noticed that it replicates itself efficiently throughout human airways. Although the situation of the people infected has not been that serious, experts opined that this could change any moment as it has all the hallmarks of a “candidate pandemic virus”.
Researchers collected 338 blood samples from workers on 15 pig farms and 230 from people in nearby households to carry on with their research. The tests discovered that several workers and other people have developed antibody to the virus. 10.4% of the workers and 4.4% of the others tested positive for antibodies whereas workers between the ages of 18 and 35 tested positive at a higher rate of almost 20%. Irrespective of this, Ian H. Brown, the head of Britain’s Animal and Plant Health Agency advising close attention to the virus, put forward his concern for the risk that this virus might carry.
Li-Min Huang, director of the Division of Pediatric Infectious Diseases at National Taiwan University Hospital informed that the next crucial step would be to see if the virus has been contracted by any worker through a human or if it has been spread. Moreover, the study was sent for review in early December. According to research, Eurasian H1N1 strain has been making rounds since a few decades, but the G4 virus has been seen to rise sharply since 2014 and the widespread prevalence of the G4 virus in pig farms inevitably increases the exposure to humans.
Dr. Anthony Fauci, one of the top infectious disease expert of the United States, seems to be of the opinion that this virus is not of immediate threat although a close watch should be kept as prevention is better than cure. The study has been a collaboration amongst various major organisations that included Center for Disease Control and Prevention and the World Health Organization. The fatality rate of H1N1 has been estimated to be as low as 0.02%. However, the Spanish flu pandemic was placed at 2.5% fatality rate. Discovering the fatality rate of the new virus has been key to the question of a rise of a new pandemic. However, this question might not be properly answered until the prevailing pandemic ends.
By: Sagarika Mukhopadhyay
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