Scientists alert humans about a viral mutation that could cause a major flu outbreak

For the first time in history, a mutating influenza virus is expected to trigger a pandemic by attacking the lungs of unprotected humans. For some, that means China’s annual flu vaccine is not enough to prevent that outcome, according to Reuters. The newly-discovered flu “GeneViable” virus contains the genes of 11 other influenza strains, and could create a deadly and unpredictable combination.

The first cases of suspected infection with “GeneViable” were identified on Dec. 19 in the Xinjiang region of China. China has already identified 57 suspected cases, according to Reuters, although it is hard to gauge the risk this virus could pose to humans because the current version does not continue to spread after a virus already has been killed.

While the new mutating strain is in human cells, its spread is impossible without human involvement, as the virus continues to attack the respiratory system after infection. The genetic mutations would be detected in a lab and according to the IAI, virologists will have time to study the virus, identify it, and manufacture a vaccine against it before it could penetrate the human immune system. Because it is never been seen before on people, officials will remain cautious when choosing the best course of action in cases of the virus.

As the U.S. Centres for Disease Control and Prevention, officials caution against treating all flu-like illnesses as necessarily a means of seeking treatment. Typically, people suffering from the flu would not have many symptoms in the first place and health experts suspect many people will show symptoms without anyone knowing it. As Scott Sharpless, the director of CDC’s Division of Influenza Epidemiology and Control in a statement on Tuesday, stated: “These symptoms can be confused with something else. If you are self-diagnosing or not getting a full lab assessment, it’s important to speak with your health care provider.”

This is not the first ever pandemic that has arisen from a similar development. In 1968, an avian influenza dubbed “Hong Kong flu” caused a global pandemic that infected nearly 50 million people and killed over 565,000 globally. Since then, the scientific community has been working to prevent another outbreak of the pandemic from occurring, but as yet nothing has been discovered as to how to stop such an event from occurring.

Read the full story at Reuters.


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