A study published by the National Academy of Sciences claimed the virus was a worsening issue in pig farms. Alexandru Niculae, Communication Officer Media and Risk Communication at European Centre for Disease Prevention and Control (ECDC), told Express.co.uk: “The data have been already presented in earlier meetings where the issue of the circulation of >30 different reasserted swine flu viruses with different compositions in the pig population in China and most of them contained H1pdm09 segments were mentioned. Therefore these findings are well known.
“The study highlights important findings to monitor swine influenza closely; however, the findings described due to the low sample size in a growing pig population of >60 mil pigs during a study period over several years in the past might not represent the actual situation in the Chinese pig population.
“In addition, the epidemic of African Swine Fever had a great impact in and caused high mortality in the pig population across South-east Asia including China over the last years, which might have contributed to a different situation.
“Although a relatively high rate of seropositivity of 10% is mentioned, positive serological findings could also indicate cross-reactivity to closely related viruses which might have a different gene composition.
“No international notification through IHR of any human case and in particular a severe human case has been reported from China or elsewhere related to this virus.”
“Comparable (or even higher) seropositivity results have been seen in Live Bird Market workers for avian flu (e.g. against H9), which underline the overall threat of influenza viruses to transmit from birds, swine or other animals to humans.
“Therefore, continuous monitoring of influenza viruses in animals is required to understand the evolution and be able to identify viruses with a zoonotic potential early.”
Of the transmission of the disease he said: “Influenza viruses can transmit through droplets but also direct contact between animals and humans.”
“Influenza viruses are entering the body through entry in cells in the respiratory tract, however, the mainly affected organs of newly emerging viruses are not known.”
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Asked about the report at a briefing in Geneva today, WHO spokesman Christian Lindmeier said: “We will read carefully the paper to understand what is new.
“It also highlights we cannot let our guard down on influenza and need to be vigilant and continue surveillance even in the coronavirus pandemic.”
Between 2011 and 2018, the research team observed about 30,000 nasal swabs taken from pigs in abattoirs in 10 Chinese provinces.
They also analysed 1,000 swabs from pigs with respiratory symptoms that had received treatment at CAU’s veterinary teaching hospital.