(TMU) – Chinese researchers are sounding the alarm on a new type of swine flu they believe could potentially trigger a new global pandemic.
Consider it just the latest sign that 2020 could be a far more grindingly long and harsh year than originally envisioned.
The virulent new strain of swine flu has been named G4 EA H1N1 – or simply G4 – and is carried by pigs but capable of also infecting humans, the scientists wrote in the study published Monday by the Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences journal.
G4 is a genetic descendent of the H1N1 strain that first originated in 2009 among pigs in central Mexico, the researchers wrote, and possesses “all the essential hallmarks of being highly adapted to infect humans.”
Researchers in China have identified a new #swineflu virus, known as "G4", that could cause a pandemic, according to #PNAS. The virus evolved from the #H1N1 strain of the pandemic in 2009, and Chinese experts say it exhibits all the characteristics of a highly adapted infection. pic.twitter.com/iBlkFW64jx
— Global Times (@globaltimesnews) June 30, 2020
While the disease isn’t considered an immediate or imminent danger, researchers fear that if it mutates further it could potentially spread easily from person to person and reach the level of a global outbreak on the scale of H1N1 or the current COVID-19 pandemic, especially because it bears “all the hallmarks” of being highly adapted to infecting humans.
The researchers who authored the study come from China’s universities and the Chinese Center for Disease Control and Prevention.
Between 2011 and 2018, the scientists took 30,000 nasal swabs from pigs in slaughterhouses across slaughterhouses in 10 Chinese provinces and a veterinary hospital, allowing them to isolate 179 swine flu viruses, AFP reports. The majority were of a new kind dominant among swine since 2016.
Researchers then carried out a number of experiments, including on ferrets due to the similarity of symptoms they experience versus those felt by humans.
To make matters worse, G4 was observed to be extremely infectious and causing more serious symptoms among ferrets than other viruses do while replicating in human cells.
Because the virus is so new, humans enjoy little to no immunity from it – even if they have been exposed to seasonal flu. Current flu vaccines also offer not protection, although scientists say they can be adapted for the purpose if needed.
“Right now we are distracted with coronavirus and rightly so,” Prof. Kin-Chow Chang of Nottingham University told BBC. “But we must not lose sight of potentially dangerous new viruses … We should not ignore it.”
Over one in 10 swine workers have already been infected by the virus, according to antibody blood tests conducted to measure exposure to the virus.
Additionally, as many as 4.4 percent of the general population has already apparently been exposed to the new swine flu – signaling that the virus has already passed from animals to humans.
However, it remains unproven that the flu can be passed from human to human – which is the primary concern of the scientists.
“It is of concern that human infection of G4 virus will further human adaptation and increase the risk of a human pandemic,” the scientists wrote.
The scientists urged authorities to swiftly implement strong controls to control the virus among the pigs and closely monitor workers in the meat industry.
James Wood, head of the department of veterinary medicine at Cambridge University, told AFP:
“The work comes as a salutary reminder that we are constantly at risk of new emergence of zoonotic pathogens and that farmed animals – with which humans have greater contact than with wildlife – may act as the source for important pandemic viruses.”
Biden to Ban Menthol Cigarettes, Citing Health Impact on Youth and Black People
The Biden administration is reportedly planning to propose an immediate ban on menthol cigarettes, a product that has long been targeted by anti-smoking advocates and critics who claim that the tobacco industry has aggressively marketed to Black people in the U.S.
On Wednesday, the Washington Post reported that the administration could announce a ban on menthol and other flavored cigarettes as soon as this week.
Roughly 85 percent of Black smokers use such menthol brands as Newport and Kool, according to the Food and Drug Administration. Research has also found that menthol cigarettes are easier to become addicted to and harder to quit than unflavored tobacco products, along with other small cigars popular with young people and African Americans.
Civil rights advocates claim that the decision should be greeted by Black communities and people of color who have been marketed to by what they describe as the predatory tobacco industry.
Black smokers generally smoke far less than white smokers, but suffer a disproportionate amount of deaths due to tobacco-linked diseases like heart attack, stroke, and other causes.
Anti-smoking advocates like Matthew L. Myers, president of Campaign for Tobacco-Free Kids, also greeted the move to cut out products that appeal to children and young adults.
“Menthol cigarettes are the No. 1 cause of youth smoking in the United States,” he said. “Eliminating menthol cigarettes and flavored cigars used by so many kids will do more in the long run to reduce tobacco-related disease than any action the federal government has ever taken.”
However, groups including the American Civil Liberties Group (ACLU) has opposed the move, citing the likelihood that such an action could lead to criminal penalties arising from the enforcement of a ban hitting communities of color hardest.
In a letter to administration officials, the ACLU and other groups including the Drug Policy Alliance said that while the ban is “no doubt well-intentioned” it would also have “serious racial justice implications.”
“Such a ban will trigger criminal penalties, which will disproportionately impact people of color, as well as prioritize criminalization over public health and harm reduction,” the letter explained. “A ban will also lead to unconstitutional policing and other negative interactions with local law enforcement.”
Pollution Is Making Human Penises Shrink and Causing a Collapse of Fertility, Scientists Say
With many still scoffing at the idea of rampant pollution posing a threat to humanity, a new study could drastically change the conversation: the chemicals across our environment could be the cause of shrinking human penises.
According to a new book by Dr. Shanna H. Swan, conditions in the modern world are quickly altering the reproductive development of humans and posing a threat to our future as a species.
The argument is laid out in her new book Count Down: How Our Modern World Is Threatening Sperm Counts, Altering Male and Female Reproductive Development, and Imperiling the Future of the Human Race.
The book discusses how pollution is not only leading to skyrocketing erectile dysfunction rates and fertility decline, but also an expansion in the number of babies born with small penises.
While it may seem like good fodder for jokes, the research could portend a grim future for humanity’s ability to survive.
Swan co-authored a study in 2017 that found sperm counts had precipitously fallen in Western countries by 59 percent between 1973 and 2011. In her latest book, Swan blames chemicals for this crisis in the making.
“Chemicals in our environment and unhealthy lifestyle practices in our modern world are disrupting our hormonal balance, causing various degrees of reproductive havoc,” she wrote in the new book.
“In some parts of the world, the average twentysomething woman today is less fertile than her grandmother was at 35,” she also wrote, noting that men could have only half the sperm count of their grandfathers.
Swan blames the disruption on phthalates, the chemicals used in plastic manufacturing that also have an impact on how the crucial hormone endocrine is produced
However, experts note that the proper implementation of pollution reduction measures could help humanity prevent the collapse of human fertility.
Visualizing The World’s Deadliest Pandemics By Population Impact
Humanity has been battling against disease for centuries.
And while most contagious outbreaks have never reached full-blown pandemic status, Visual Capitalist’s Carmen Ang notes that there have been several times throughout history when a disease has caused mass devastation.
Here’s a look at the world’s deadliest pandemics to date, viewed from the lens of the impact they had on the global population at the time.
Editor’s note: The above graphic was created in response to a popular request from users after viewing our popular history of pandemics infographic initially released a year ago.
Death Toll, by Percent of Population
In the mid-1300s, a plague known as the Black Death claimed the lives of roughly 200 million people – more than 50% of the global population at that time.
Here’s how the death toll by population stacks up for other significant pandemics, including COVID-19 so far.
The specific cause of the Black Death is still up for debate. Many experts claim the 14th-century pandemic was caused by a bubonic plague, meaning there was no human-to-human transmission, while others argue it was possibly pneumonic.
Interestingly, the plague still exists today – however, it’s significantly less deadly, thanks to modern antibiotics.
History Repeats, But at Least We Keep Learning
While we clearly haven’t eradicated infection diseases from our lives entirely, we’ve at least come a long way in our understanding of what causes illness in the first place.
In ancient times, people believed gods and spirits caused diseases and widespread destruction. But by the 19th century, a scientist named Louis Pasteur (based on findings by Robert Koch) discovered germ theory – the idea that small organisms caused disease.
What will we discover next, and how will it impact our response to disease in the future?
Like this? Check out the full-length article The History of Pandemics
Republished from ZH with permission.