A new virus found in pigs in China could become a problem if it sparks human-to-human transmission (file image).
It is believed that this new disease has the potential to mutate and subsequently spread and trigger a pandemic.
However, he said it is important to monitor the emerging situation. The new study, published today in the Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences, focuses on an influenza virus dubbed G4.
There's another potential pandemic looming on the horizon, and this time it might actually be a formidable flu.
A researcher at Nottingham University in the UK, Professor Kin-Chow Chang, told the BBC that at the moment, the world is "distracted with coronavirus and rightly so" but "we must not lose sight of potentially unsafe new viruses".
Researchers found evidence of recent infections of the new virus in abattoir and swine industry workers in China.
So far, it hasn't posed a big threat, but Prof Kin-Chow Chang and colleagues who have been studying it, say it is one to keep an eye on.
A team of Chinese researchers looked at influenza viruses found in pigs from 2011 to 2018 and found a "G4" strain of H1N1 that has "all the essential hallmarks of a candidate pandemic virus", according to the paper, published by the USA journal, Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences (PNAS). However, the team discovered G4 has undergone genetic reshuffling that appears to have rendered current influenza vaccines ineffective against it.
The last swine flu pandemic began in Mexico in 2009 but was not as deadly as initially feared. But Nelson notes that no one knew about the pandemic H1N1 strain, which jumped from pigs to people, until the first human cases surfaced in 2009. "We just do not know a pandemic is going to occur until the damn thing occurs", Webster says, noting that China has the largest pig population in the world. "Will this one do it?"
The virus was also found to have been readily transmitted between ferrets, a popular animal model used to study human influenza. Scientists say that pigs have been increasingly infected with the virus since 2016.