Infectious disease expert Doctor Dena Grayson tweeted: “Researchers warn of a new flu strain in China that is similar to the 2009 H1N1 swine and has the potential to become a pandemic. It primarily infects pigs but can infect humans. It’s not an if, it is a when the next pandemic virus will emerge.”
The virus has been discovered in the countries pig stocks and scientists have announced it can infect humans.
It was first detected in humans who became ill who had worked in abattoirs that dealt with China’s swine industry.
The current flu vaccines do not offer protection to the new virus, but work is being carried out to see if the current inoculations can be adapted.
Speaking to the BBC, Professor Kin-Chow Chang of Nottingham University said: “Right now we are distracted with coronavirus and rightly so.
“But we must not lose sight of potentially dangerous new viruses.”
While this new virus is not an immediate problem the scientist said: “We should not ignore it”.
The fear now is that it may mutate further and become airborne giving it the ability to spread exponentially causing an outbreak.
The new strain has “all the hallmarks” of being highly adapted to infect humans.
It can propagate in cells that line the human airways.
In 2019 the Chinese pork industry took a huge hit after millions of pigs were slaughtered because they had contracted African swine fever.
If this new pathogen spreads then China’s swine industry could be hit again when it is just trying to recover.
Swine flu viruses are exceedingly hardy.
They survive being cooked and processed and will endure in frozen meat for a number of years.
Pork accounts for some 35 percent of protein consumption within China.
The average Chinese person eats 30kg of pork per year.
It comes as the globe is currently fighting the coronavirus pandemic thought to have originated in Wuhan in China.
The deadly virus has spread right across the globe, forcing countries into lockdown, and killing around 500,000 and infection 10 million so far.