FAO, OIE, WHO emphasize pandemic risk of Chinese swine H1N1 flu

Tripartite statement calls for vigilance and preparedness


by Sarah Mikesell, The Pig Site

15 September 2020


A recent report on the circulation of A(H1N1) subtype influenza viruses in the swine population in China with evidence of zoonotic potential has alerted the world to the pandemic risk associated with swine influenza viruses.


A recent tripartite statement released by the WHO, OIE and FAO said this particular genetic clade (1C.2.3) of swine influenza A (H1N1) viruses was first identified and reported by Chinese researchers at the Harbin Veterinary Research Institute in China in 2016, and from 2016-2018 remained the most commonly detected genotype of influenza viruses in surveillance undertaken in swine populations in China. OFFLU, working through its open network have assessed the potential implications of the latest research findings. To date there is no evidence that these viruses are present in pigs or humans outside of China but vigilance is strongly advised.


Two variant H1N1 cases involving the subtype have recently been detected in humans, and a small seroprevalence study in Chinese swine workers suggested that 10% had been exposed to the virus. The WHO Collaborating Center in China has developed a candidate vaccine virus targeting the strain.


“Although there is limited data assessing human infections and circulation of these viruses in pigs, awareness and vigilance is strongly advised for a number of reasons” says Keith Sumption, Chief Veterinary Officer of the FAO. “The viruses analysed in the recent report from China show characteristics associated with increased ability for zoonotic transmission – the potential ability to infect humans. The viruses have some genetic markers to suggest human infection is possible; they can replicate in human airway cells, and viruses can be spread via respiratory droplets passed between ferrets.”


The three groups note the importance of new and updated swine influenza surveillance data...