A new virus has emerged in China and infected around 35 people, sparking concern that a new pandemic could be on the way. Scientists say that it’s too soon to determine whether the viral outbreak will be deadly and whether it can spread easily between humans.
The Langya henipavirus, known as LayV, has been documented by scientists spreading among animals in some parts of China, most notably among shrews. A new report in The New England Journal of Medicine published on August 4 also reveals how patients in two Chinese provinces have also become infected.
What the Report Says
According to the report, titled “A Zoonotic Henipavirus in Febrile Patients in China,” patients infected with LayV exhibit flu-like symptoms, which include muscle soreness, fatigue, loss of appetite, persistent cough, and fever. Patients also report experiencing nausea.
Taiwan’s Centers for Disease Control confirmed that patients have so far been identified in the Shandong and Henan provinces of China.
Out of the 35 patients infected with the virus, 26 were infected with no other pathogens. The researchers also noted how a fraction of patients experienced impaired liver and kidney function.
“These 26 patients presented with fever (100% of the patients), fatigue (54%), cough (50%), anorexia (50%), myalgia (46%), nausea (38%), headache (35%), and vomiting (35%), accompanied by abnormalities of thrombocytopenia (35%), leukopenia (54%), and impaired liver (35%) and kidney (8%) function,” the paper reads.
Does It Spread Between Humans?
When a virus can easily spread between humans, it can easily become a pandemic. However, scientists are unclear about whether the LayV virus can spread between humans as all patients have a recent history of animal exposure in eastern China.
According to the report, the genome of the LayV virus is comprised of 18,402 nucleotides and has the same genome organizations as other henipaviruses within the Paramyxoviridae family. These viruses are known to infect humans and even cause death, but they are typically found in bat, shrew, and rodent populations.
There has been no documented transmission of the virus between humans, and all those who are currently infected with the virus have been isolated. Contact tracing of 9 patients is also underway, with friends and family members reportedly testing negative for the virus.
Jack Buckby is a British author, counter-extremism researcher, and journalist based in New York. Reporting on the U.K., Europe, and the U.S., he works to analyze and understand left-wing and right-wing radicalization, and reports on Western governments’ approaches to the pressing issues of today. His books and research papers explore these themes and propose pragmatic solutions to our increasingly polarized society.