How dangerous is the Langya virus? China hit by new henipavirus that jumped from SHREWS to humans

There is currently no vaccine or treatment for the virus, the symptoms of which are fever, cough, myalgia, and anorexia among others

How dangerous is the Langya virus? China hit by new henipavirus that jumped from SHREWS to humans
Langya virus was discovered in China during surveillance testing of patients who had a fever along with a recent history of animal exposure (Jane Barlow/Getty Images)
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BEIJING, CHINA: A new virus, named Langya henipavirus or LayV, has been detected in parts of Shandong and Henan provinces in China with 35 people being infected so far. Out of them, 26 have shown symptoms of fever, irritability, cough, anorexia, myalgia, nausea, headache, and vomiting.

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A study titled 'A Zoonotic Henipavirus in Febrile Patients in China' that was published in the New England Journal of Medicine (NEJM) on August 4, 2022, said that a new henipavirus associated with a fever-causing human illness was identified in China. According to the Taipei Times, authorities have chosen to start using nucleic acid testing procedures to find the virus and track its spread. The Taiwan Centers for Disease Control (CDC) issued a precautionary alert, advising people to closely monitor news on the virus. Chuang Jen-Hsiang, the deputy director of the Taiwan CDC, told the outlet that so far, there have been no reports of the virus exhibiting human-to-human transmission. A serological survey of domestic animals found that two percent of the goats and five percent of the dogs that were tested were positive.

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What is Langya virus and how was it discovered?

Langya was discovered in eastern China during surveillance testing of patients who had a fever along with a recent history of animal exposure. It is part of the Henipavirus family. Two species from the same family have been identified before; the Hendra virus and the Nipah virus. The WHO classifies Henipavirus as a biosafety Level 4 threat, in which death rate ranges between 40 and 75 percent, according to 9News. So far, no connected deaths have been reported.

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The study by NEJM found the virus in 71 of 262 shrews - a small mole-like mammal - surveyed in the two Chinese provinces where the outbreak started, as per The Straits Times. It also said that human-to-human transmission of LayV, which is most closely related to the Mojiang virus, has not been observed. The study said, "Contact tracing of nine patients with 15 close-contact family members revealed no close-contact LayV transmission. But our sample size was too small to determine the status of human-to-human transmission for LayV." 

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As per The Guardian, the virus was first detected in the northeastern provinces of Shandong and Henan in late 2018 but was only formally identified by scientists on August 8.

Symptoms of the virus

The symptoms experienced by 26 people were fever, exhaustion, a cough, appetite loss, muscle discomfort, nausea, headaches, and vomiting. Additionally, they exhibited a reduction in white blood cells, liver failure, renal failure, and a low platelet count.

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