DEJA FLU: What is Langya Virus and How Fatal is it? 35 People Affected from New Zoonotic Virus Outbreak in China

The researchers tested wild animals and found LayV viral RNA in more than a quarter of 262 shrews, "a finding that suggests that the shrew may be a natural reservoir".

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A new potentially fatal virus has been discovered in China that is believed to have been passed to humans by shrews. According to reports, doctors and researchers have raised the alarm over the potentially fatal virus that has already infected dozens in China. 'Langya' henipavirus — or LayV — was detected in as many as 35 people in China's Henan and Shandong provinces.

Although no deaths have been reported so far, researchers have warned that the Langya virus is highly fatal much like the Covid-19 that started spreading from China in December 2019. Although the Langya henipavirus was first discovered in the northeastern provinces of Shandong and Henan in late 2018, scientists didn't properly identify it until this week.

New Scare

Langya virus
Langya henipavirus — or LayV — has been detected in 35 people in China Twitter

According to a report in The Taipei Times, the Langya Henipavirus, also known as "Langya," has already infected 35 people without causing any fatalities or significant illnesses. Scientists believe that the virus was transmitted to people from animals, mainly shrews.

Taiwan's health administration is currently keeping an eye on the spread. The researchers tested wild animals and found LayV viral RNA in more than a quarter of 262 shrews, "a finding that suggests that the shrew may be a natural reservoir". The virus was also detected in 2% of domestic goats and 5% of dogs.

The outlet also reported that human-to-human transmission of the virus has not yet been reported. However, the fatality rate could be high if the virus continues to spread.

Chinese researchers looking into the virus are of the opinion that human cases are "sporadic." They are still investigating if it can spread from person to person.

Researchers believe the Langya henipavirus was passed on by shrews (Representational purpose only) Twitter

According to reports, 26 of the 35 patients affected by the virus have shown flu-like symptoms like fever, exhaustion, coughing, headaches, and vomiting.

The Hendra virus and the Nipah virus are two previously known members of the Henipavirus family, which also includes the newly discovered virus. Researchers said that Langya Henipavirus is a member of a group of viruses that, in extreme situations, have been known to kill up to 75 percent of people.

Symptoms and Precautions

Langya Henipavirus was the subject of a study conducted by scientists under the direction of the Beijing Institute of Microbiology and Epidemiology, which was published in the New England Journal of Medicine. Prior to a cluster of 14 instances being discovered over the course of the following year in both provinces, they discovered the first case in Shandong before January 2019.

Langya henipavirus
Langya henipavirus Twitter

No infections were found during the first year of the pandemic from January to July 2020, with researchers pausing work to prevent the spread of Covid. However, from that month onward, 11 more were discovered.

In order to determine how severely the infection had impacted people, researchers monitored patient symptoms.

If the virus affects humans causes symptoms like fever, exhaustion, coughing, appetite loss, and muscle aches. The experts reported that everyone who was infected developed a fever. In 26 of the 35 individuals, the virus was the lone possible culprit discovered, indicating that "LayV was the cause of febrile illness."

Among all these, fever was the most common in patients. It was followed by tiredness (54 percent), coughing (50 percent) appetite loss (50 percent) muscle aches (46 percent) and feeling queasy (38 percent). Approximately 35 percent experienced liver issues, whereas 8% experienced a decline in kidney function.

The virus was also detected in 2% of domestic goats and 5% of dogs (Representational purpose only) Twitter

In order to determine whether the virus was being spread by domestic and wild animals or if possible human-to-human transmission was to blame, the Chinese researchers also monitored the virus in animal populations.

The Chinese researchers found the virus in 71 of 262 shrews — a small mole-like mammal — surveyed in the two Chinese provinces where the outbreak started. In addition to shrews, the virus was also found in dogs (5 percent) and goats (2 percent).

Researchers stated it was yet unclear whether the virus can spread between humans. The majority of the 35 cases included farmers, while factory workers were also afflicted. "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," the researchers found.

This article was first published on August 10, 2022