An emerging virus discovered in pigs in China has traits similar to the 2009 swine flu and 1918 Spanish flu, Dr. Anthony Fauci, a member of the White House coronavirus task force, told a Senate committee on June 30.
Fauci, the head of the National Institute of Allergy and Infectious Diseases, said that while the virus, which has been dubbed G4 EA H1N1, doesn’t appear to infect humans, it has shown that it could mutate.
“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,” Fauci stated at a hearing held by the Senate Health, Education, Labor, and Pensions Committee. “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.”
Fauci told the lawmakers that there is a “possibility that you might have another swine flu-type outbreak as we had in 2009.”
The virus is still being investigated.
Meanwhile, Fauci expressed concern over the recent surge in CCP (Chinese Communist Party) virus cases.
“We have got to get that message out that we are all in this together,” he said. “If we are going to contain this, we’ve got to contain it together.”
A team of Chinese researchers who looked at influenza viruses found in pigs from 2011 to 2018 and found a “G4” strain of H1N1 that has “all the essential hallmarks of a candidate pandemic virus,” according to a study published by the U.S. journal Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences.
Pig farm workers also showed elevated levels of the virus in their blood, the authors said, adding that “close monitoring in human populations, especially the workers in the swine industry, should be urgently implemented.”
The study said pigs were considered important “mixing vessels” for the generation of pandemic influenza viruses and called for “systematic surveillance” of the problem. The new virus identified in the study is a recombination of the 2009 H1N1 variant and a once prevalent strain found in pigs.
The World Health Organization said it will read the Chinese study carefully, spokesman Christian Lindmeier told a Geneva briefing on June 30, saying it was important to collaborate on findings and keep tabs on animal populations.
Reuters contributed to this report.