H7N9 bird flu and swine flu can ‘combine and mutate’
New strain from flu in birds and pigs could become pandemic threat, HKU researchers warn
Saturday, 25 May, 2013
The H7N9 bird flu virus may combine with the swine flu and mutate into a new virus strain, a University of Hong Kong research team warns.
The team’s study, reported by the South China Morning Post yesterday, confirmed that the bird flu could be transmitted through the air and suggested it might already be spreading among humans.
“It is possible that this virus can evolve further to form the basis of a future pandemic threat,” said Maria Zhu Huachen, an assistant professor of research at HKU’s school of public health.
The team, which officially announced their findings yesterday, discovered that both ferrets and pigs could contract H7N9.
Zhu said the more time sick chickens and pigs spent in close contact, the greater the likelihood of the two viruses – the bird flu and swine flu – combining and mutating into a new virus strain.
“A major intervention is to separate pigs and chickens in the market to minimise the risk of the virus spreading to the pig,” said HKU virologist Guan Yi.