New Virus Emerges in China: Are You at Risk?

Woman wearing mask
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Dr. Anthony Fauci has had to deliver plenty of grim news about the coronavirus pandemic this year.

But the director of the National Institute of Allergy and Infectious Diseases made a comment on June 30 that potentially ranks among his most dispiriting.

In testimony before Congress, Fauci said a new strain of flu has emerged in China that shares characteristics with both the 2009 H1N1 “swine flu” virus and the 1918 pandemic flu that killed tens of millions of people worldwide.

First, the good news: Thus far, the virus — dubbed “G4 EA H1N1” — is confined to pigs. There is no conclusive evidence at the moment that it is transmissible to humans.

However, Fauci noted that the virus is displaying “reassortment capabilities.” As he testified:

“In other words, when you get a brand-new virus that turns out to be a pandemic virus, it’s either due to mutations and/or the reassortment or exchanges of genes.”

Initially, it was thought that the coronavirus had its origins in infected animals in a Chinese wet market, where live animals are sold and slaughtered. Lately, that theory has been contested.

Scientists also originally were not sure whether the COVID-19 virus itself was an imminent danger to humans. In fact, the World Health Organization infamously tweeted on Jan. 14 that there was “no clear evidence” COVID-19 could be transmitted from human to human.

The coronavirus now has killed more than 120,000 people in the U.S. and more than 507,000 worldwide as of June 30, according to Johns Hopkins University.

Older Americans have been disproportionately impacted by the pandemic. The New York Times reported earlier this week that 43% of all coronavirus deaths in the U.S. have been tied to nursing homes.

Meanwhile, The Wall Street Journal reported that nearly 80% of deaths in Europe have been among people older than 75.

Recently, more young people have been testing positive for COVID-19, although Fauci said on June 26 that many of them are asymptomatic.

Still, past versions of the flu — including the 1918 flu pandemic and the 2009 H1N1 swine flu — were notably deadly for both young and old.

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