Coronavirus has continued to spread across the world, with more than 10 million confirmed cases of the virus. But, a new flu virus has been spotted in China, that has been revealed to have “pandemic potential”.
The new strain of flu, which has been named G4 EA H1N1, has emerged from pigs, but can infect humans.
Scientists are now worried that the virus may mutate to become more infectious to humans, meaning faster transmission between hosts, sparking another global pandemic.
An expert has claimed that another emerging epidemic would be “the perfect storm”, on top of the already disastrous spread of coronavirus.
It’s particularly worrying that this new virus appears to simply cause flu symptoms in humans, said Professor Diana Bell from the University of East Anglia, expert in emerging zoonotic diseases.
The public have already been told to look out for common flu symptoms to limit the spread of coronavirus – including a fever, and a new cough.
But, to have more than one virus circulating among the public at the same time, that causes similar symptoms, would be “disastrous”, Bell warned.
The risk to the UK of the new virus is small, and China is already trying to contain the spread.
However, the UK public should remain vigilant, as just because we have one global pandemic, it doesn’t mean that there can’t be another one, she added.
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“This would be a perfect storm in terms of another emerging epidemic or flu virus, on top of a global pandemic,” Bell told Express Health.
“What have we been told to look out for COVID symptoms? It’s flu symptoms. To have two things circulating at the same time would be disastrous.
“But, let’s just hope that China has a handle on it. It’s something that China and the rest of the world have to watch.
“Just because we’ve got one global pandemic doesn’t mean that we can’t get another one.”
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Scientists discovered the new virus after antibodies were found in Chinese pig farmers.
The virus can grow and multiply in the cells that line human airways, although experts have claimed that it’s not an immediate problem.
If it were to mutate, however, and become easily spread between humans, then it may pose another global threat.
Scientists have already revealed that it has “all the hallmarks” of being highly adapted to infect humans.
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The latest virus emphasises a need for a global debate on agricultural farming practices, added Bell.
China is currently the world’s major pig producer, producing double the EU’s entire contribution.
“It underlines the fact that these viruses are out there, and that they don’t only come from wildlife; they come from livestock,” said Bell.
“It shows that we need careful monitoring of diseases in our livestock. We need to stop the illegal wildlife trade, because wherever you look, you’ll find new viruses in those species.
“It’s about global co-operation between all sorts of disciplines, and to find a safe way forward.”
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