Langya: How worrying is the new virus spreading in China?
While the threat of COVID-19 still lingers two years into the pandemic, a new virus is on the horizon.
Researchers are monitoring the spread of Langya henipavirus (LayV) in China, where dozens of cases have already been reported.
The virus was first detected in 2018 in the northeastern provinces of Shandong and Henan, but was only officially identified last week after China experienced a sudden increase in cases, now totaling 35.
What is Langya virus?
Langya virus belongs to the same family as the deadly Nipah and Hendra viruses, the henipa virus family.
According to the World Health Organization (WHO), this family of viruses is very dangerous, with Nipah estimated to have a fatality rate of between 40 and 75 percent - much higher than the death rate reported for COVID-19.
It is unclear how dangerous the Langya virus may be to humans, as all patients who have contracted the virus in China so far have experienced mild flu-like symptoms and there have been no reported fatalities.
What are the symptoms of Langya virus?
The most common symptom of Langya virus appears to be fever (experienced by all patients), but those infected with the virus also reported fatigue (54 percent of patients), loss of appetite (50 percent), muscle pain (46 percent) , cough (50 percent), nausea (38 percent), headache and vomiting (35 percent) after contracting the virus.
Some also developed blood cell abnormalities and signs of liver and kidney damage, but none of the infected patients died.
How is Langya virus transmitted?
Langya virus is a zoonotic infection - meaning the virus spreads from animals to humans. But since none of the patients in China had close contact with each other, experts believe that animal-to-human transmission of the virus is still sporadic.
Researchers are still trying to find out exactly which animals were involved in the transmission of the virus, but they suspect that rodents may be involved.
How is Langya virus treated?
There are currently no human vaccines for henipaviruses, although there is one against Hendra virus for horses.