Dr. Anthony Fauci, director of the National Institute of Allergy and Infectious Diseases, testified Tuesday that an emerging virus found in pigs in China shares traits with the 2009 Swine Flu and 1918 Pandemic Flu, and U.S. public health officials are monitoring the disease.
Fauci, a White House coronavirus task force member, explained before the Senate Health, Education, Labor and Pensions Committee that the virus — known as “G4 EA H1N1,” — doesn’t appear to infect humans, however, it has shown “reassortment capabilities.”
“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,” he stated. “And they’re seeing virus in swine, in pigs now, that have characteristics of the 2009 H1N1, of the original 1918, which many of our flu viruses have remnants of that in it, as well as segments from other hosts like swine.”
Fauci warned lawmakers of the “possibility that you might have another swine flu type outbreak as we had in 2009.”
“It’s something that still is in the stage of examination,” he added.
During another part of his testimony, Fauci expressed that he is “quite concerned” regarding the recent surge in Chinese coronavirus cases, blaming states for possibly reopening too soon and some Americans ignoring guidelines to stop the virus’ spread.
“We have got to get that message out that we are all in this together,” he said. “If we are going to contain this, we’ve got to contain it together.”
Federal and state officials have also blamed the surges on younger people failing to take precautions, like face masks and distancing in public.
Also appearing before the panel Tuesday was Robert Redfield, director of the Centers of Disease Control and Prevention; Stephen Hahn, commissioner of the Food and Drug Administration; and Brett Giroir, assistant secretary of the Health and Human Services Department.
Concerning the recent increases, Redfield said it’s “imperative” that Americans take personal responsibility in employing preventative measures to stop the virus’ spread.
“Specifically, I’m addressing the younger members of our society, the millennials and the ‘Generation Zs,’” he said.
“I ask those that are listening to spread the word,” he added, urging younger people to “embrace the universal use of face coverings.”