Wednesday, May 8, 2013

Study Shows Swine Flu Infection Rising in China's Pig Farms

Study Shows Swine Flu Infection Rising in China's Pig Farms

Published on May 8, 2013
A new study on the swine flu virus is showing an increase in infection rate in pigs raised in south and southeastern China. The high infection rate is posing a risk for humans, more so with the avian flu outbreak in the region.

An international team of disease experts carried out the study by analyzing data collected at a slaughter farm in Hong Kong over a 12-year period from 1998 to 2010. The pigs were tested for the flu virus and antibodies at the time of slaughter. Analysis revealed a rise in positive antibody tests, indicating the pigs already carried the infection and became immune to tests.

Experts say the pig virus can swap genes with bird flu, generating a new hybrid flu virus. Such viruses can be deadly and lead to flu pandemics, killing millions.

A study published in the journal Science last week showed that H1N1 can swap genes with the H5N1 bird flu virus, creating a hybrid virus that can spread between mammals through the air.

The pig virus remained undetected for 10 years, until the H1N1 flu pandemic broke out in Mexico in 2009. Scientists say studies on pig flu can help prevent such outbreaks.

China generates 50% of the world's pork and has a large population of pigs. Pig farms are located in close proximity with humans and birds, increasing the risk of new flu outbreaks.

H7N9 is currently not traced in pigs, but is being closely monitored for any genetic mutations.

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