A new strain of flu that has the potential to become a pandemic has been identified in China by scientists.

It emerged recently and is carried by pigs, but can infect humans, they say.

The researchers are concerned that it could mutate further so that it can spread easily from person to person, and trigger a global outbreak.

While it is not an immediate problem, they say, it has “all the hallmarks” of being highly adapted to infect humans and needs close monitoring.

As it’s new, people could have little or no immunity to the virus.

The scientists write in the journal Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences that measures to control the virus in pigs, and the close monitoring of swine industry workers, should be swiftly implemented.

The new flu strain that has been identified in China is similar to 2009 swine flu, but with some new changes.

Prof Kin-Chow Chang, who works at Nottingham University in the UK, told the BBC: “Right now we are distracted with Corona virus and rightly so. But we must not lose sight of potentially dangerous new viruses.”

So far, it hasn’t posed a big threat, but Prof Kin-Chow Chang and colleagues who have been studying it, say it is one to keep an eye on.

While this new virus is not an immediate problem, he says: “We should not ignore it.”

Prof James Wood, head of the Department of Veterinary Medicine at the University of Cambridge, said the work “comes as a salutary reminder” that we are constantly at risk of new emergence of pathogens, and that farmed animals, with which humans have greater contact than with wildlife, may act as the source for important pandemic viruses.


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