China this week reported that 35 people were infected with the ‘Langya’ henipavirus in Henan and Shandong provinces. The Langya henipavirus belongs to a family of viruses which are lethal and can cause death in severe cases.
Doctors in many countries in the west and in Taiwan have raised alarms over this new virus.
The patients in China are experiencing flu-like symptoms and the cases have not resulted in deaths. Rodents like shrews, moles and hedgehogs are natural reservoirs for the virus.
The disease was first detected in 2019 and a study released showed that most number of cases were detected this year.
Chinese disease experts who are studying the cases said these new cases were sporadic and investigation is on to see if the disease can spread from person to person.
The disease is also known as LayV. The Beijing Institute of Microbiology and Epidemiology spotted the first case in Shandong before January 2019. In 2020, 14 cases were found in Henan and Shandong.
During the Covid-19 pandemic, no cases were found between January to July in 2020.
Researchers also stopped investigation into the virus as all resources were dedicated to curbing spread of the Covid-19 pandemic.
Eleven cases were detected in August 2020.
Langya patients report fever with high temperatures when the infection takes hold. At least 54% of the patients report fatigue, 50% report cough, 50% report loss of appetite, 46% report body and muscle ache and 38% patients reported feeling queasy.
At least 35% patients reported suffering from liver problems while 8% faced kidney issues.
Presence in animal populations
Chinese disease experts are checking if the disease was passed to humans from domestic or wild animals. They analysed 262 shrews and found the virus in 71 of them. The shrews were picked from the provinces where the outbreak was reported.
The virus also found in dogs and goats.
The Chinese researchers said their sample size was too small to determine human-to-human transmission.
Commonalities with Nipah virus
Langya is a hepinavirus and belongs to the same family as the Nipah virus whose pathogen is usually found in bats. Nipah, like Covid, can spread through respiratory droplets. Nipah, however, is a deadly disease and causes fatalities.
The World Health Organization (WHO) listed Nipah as one of the virus which can cause the next pandemic. It was detected in Malaysia and Singapore in 1999, when 300 cases led to 100 casualties.