Philippines on guard against new potential pandemic from China

ABS-CBN News

Posted at Jul 01 2020 09:08 AM | Updated as of Jul 01 2020 09:21 AM

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MANILA — The Philippines is monitoring a new type of swine flu from China which researchers fear could trigger another pandemic, an official from the Department of Agriculture said Wednesday.

The new swine flu named G4 is genetically descended from the H1N1 strain that caused a pandemic in 2009. It possesses "all the essential hallmarks of being highly adapted to infect humans," said scientists at Chinese universities and China's Center for Disease Control and Prevention.

A Philippine inter-agency committee on zoonoses or diseases that jump from animals to humans will meet to prepare for G4, said Dr. Ronnie Domingo, officer-in-charge of the Bureau of Animal Industry.

"Itong influenza virus, kilala po ito sa pagiging balimbing. Nagbabago-bago po ang kaniyang makeup, nagmu-mutate po siya kaya binabantayan nila," he told ABS-CBN's TeleRadyo. "Baka po iyang nakita nila sa China e mag-mutate iyan, mabilis na siyang kumalat at magko-cause na siya ng sakit."

(This influenza virus is known for being fickle. Its makeup changes, mutates so it's being monitored. The virus they saw in China could mutate, spread quickly and cause disease.)

Viruses mutate and spread due to climate change, human encroachment into mountainous and secluded areas, and accelerated transportation between countries, he said.

The Philippines has long banned pork and chicken from China due to its cases of bird flu and foot and mouth disease, Domingo said.

The world is still trying to contain the coronavirus pandemic that emerged from Wuhan City in central China late last year and had since left millions jobless and businesses struggling to survive.

From September 2019, the Philippines has also sought to control outbreaks of the African swine fever (ASF) that the agriculture department blamed on smuggled pork from China.

ASF causes hemorrhagic fever in pigs that almost always ends in death, but cannot be transmitted to humans and other animals.

The coronavirus lockdown in March helped prevent the spread of ASF to 20 cases per 1 million pigs, from the previous 63 cases, said Domingo.

— With reports from Agence France-Presse; Jamaine Punzalan, ABS-CBN News