Investigators are increasingly concerned about a new swine flu threat in pigs located in China. Scientists are concerned that pigs infected with a strain of influenza might be able to transfer the virus to humans, causing another possible pandemic.
Robert Webster, an influenza investigator who recently retired from St. Jude Children’s Research Hospital, told Science, “We just do not know a pandemic is going to occur until the damn thing occurs.” He did note that China has the largest pig population in the world. A study in Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences, focuses on an influenza virus dubbed G4.“From the data presented, it appears that this is a swine influenza virus that is poised to emerge in humans,” Edward Holmes, an evolutionary biologist at the University of Sydney who studies pathogens, said. “Clearly this situation needs to be monitored very closely.”
Experts say its important to monitor the pigs closely for viruses. “The likelihood that this particular variant is going to cause a pandemic is low,” says Martha Nelson, an evolutionary biologist at the U.S. National Institutes of Health’s Fogarty International Center. Nelson studies pig influenza viruses and noted that no one knew about the H1N1 strain of the virus, until the virus jumped to humans.
“We need to be vigilant about other infectious disease threats even as COVID is going on because viruses have no interest in whether we’re already having another pandemic,” Nelson says. Melinda Rostal, a veterinarian epidemiologist and zoonotic disease expert at EcoHealth Alliance, tells Inverse about the findings, “Our health is intricately linked with the health of domestic and wild animals and the environment. We need to support and trust the scientists that are working hard to track the potential for spillover and pandemics and the veterinary and public health specialists that are working to monitor and prevent these diseases from causing epidemics in people and in animals.”
Read more about how factory farming impacts the environment and human health below:
- 4 Shocking Human Illnesses That are Linked to Factory Farms
- The Shocking Truth About the Health and Environmental Impact of Factory Farm Waste
- How Factory Farms Impact the Communities Where They are Located
- The Dangers of Using Waste From Factory Farms As Fertilizer 5 years ago
- The Human Cost of Factory Farming
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