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Continued horizon scanning necessary to stop new pandemics

A UEA expert in emerging zoonotic disease has called for ‘continued horizon scanning’ after a new strain of flu with the potential to become a pandemic has been identified in China by scientists.

New research published in the Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences reveals that the new strain of flu is carried by pigs, but can infect humans – sparking concern that it could mutate further and trigger a global outbreak.

Prof Diana Bell, from UEA’s School of Biological Sciences is an expert in emerging zoonotic disease, including the animal origins of Sars and Covid-19.

She said: “These are very important findings published by Chinese scientists and highlight the need for continued horizon scanning for other zoonotic pathogens during a global pandemic caused by another.

“Pig rearing occurs on a massive scale in China, as does poultry farming which resulted in H5N1 immediately after SARS.

“This paper indicates that close monitoring of both pigs and farm workers in close contact with them is in place which is essential to containment of risks associated with this novel flu virus.”

Prof Bell has previously said that crucial lessons were not learned from the Sars outbreak of 2003-4 – leading to the current Covid-19 pandemic.

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