No evidence of human-to-human infections from new China pig flu

06/30/2020 10:13 PM
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Image courtesy of China News Service for illustrative purposes only
Image courtesy of China News Service for illustrative purposes only

Taipei, June 30 (CNA) In the wake of the latest findings that a new type of swine flu has emerged in China, Taiwanese experts said on Tuesday that there was no evidence yet that it can be passed from human to human.

The view was echoed by Centers for Disease Control (CDC) Deputy Director-General Chuang Jen-hsiang (莊人祥), who said there have been no reports of human-to-human cases of the kind at present.

Chuang's comments came after Agence France-Presse (AFP), citing a study by the U.S. science journal PNAS, reported a day earlier that researchers in China have discovered a new type of swine flu that is capable of triggering a pandemic.

Named G4, it is genetically descended from the H1N1 strain that caused a pandemic in 2009, the AFP report said.

The report noted that scientists at Chinese universities and China's Center for Disease Control and Prevention believe it possesses "all the essential hallmarks of being highly adapted to infect humans."

From 2011 to 2018, researchers took 30,000 nasal swabs from pigs in slaughterhouses in 10 Chinese provinces and in a veterinary hospital, allowing them to isolate 179 swine flu viruses and discovering that the majority were of a new kind, which had been dominant among pigs since 2016, the AFP report said.

The researchers then carried out various experiments including on ferrets, which are widely used in flu studies because they experience similar symptoms as humans, mainly fever, coughing and sneezing, it said.

Speaking to local media earlier Tuesday, CDC physician Tsou Tsung-pei (鄒宗珮) said the study found that G4 can reproduce in human's respiratory epithelium cells and can be transmitted to ferrets.

In studies related to seroepidemiology, it was also detected that the serum from a small number of animal growers test positive for the virus, she said.

Tsou stressed, however, that there is currently no evidence that the virus can jump from pigs to humans.

The findings were to warn the public that the virus could spark a pandemic if it further develops to become widely adapted to infect humans, meaning that animal farmers must take due precautions against possible infections of the kind, she explained.

(By Flor Wang and Chen Wei-ting)

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