Bird flu virus belonging to the H5N1 strain has been found in pigs on several farms in China. It has not yet been confirmed whether the pigs are infected or have merely come into contact with the disease.
The H5N1 strain is highly infectious in poultry and can spread from birds to humans, although for now this remains a rare event. Scientists fear that if the pigs are infected by both bird and human flu viruses the two strains could combine to create a strain easily capable of infecting people.Chinese scientists announced the finding on Friday (20 August). However, the World Health Organisation is treating the news with caution, insisting that more information is needed before an accurate risk assessment can be made. Pigs can carry flu viruses in their snouts without necessarily becoming infected and developing the disease.