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Novel Langya virus tracked in China after reports of 35 cases. This is what scientists know so far

Scientists are monitoring a new virus in China, saying it was likely transmitted from animals to humans.

Scientists are closely monitoring a new virus emerging in China.
Photos: AFP

No deaths have been recorded but it’s prompted Taiwan’s Centers for Disease Control to monitor the virus.

Scientists have published just one letter on the virus. This is what they have said so far.

What is Langya henipavirus (LayV)?

It’s a novel virus called Langya henipavirus (or LayV for short).

So far, it has been detected in 35 people in eastern China.

It was found through surveillance testing of people displaying fever symptoms.

No deaths have been reported and scientists say there is no obvious evidence of human-to-human transmission of the virus.

They also said there was “no close contact or common exposure history among the patients”.

The disease is related to the Hendra hanipavirus, which was discovered in Queensland in 1994.

Of the seven people who have caught Hendra virus in the decades since, four have died.

How do we know about this?

LayV was first detected in late 2018, but the formal identification of LayV was made last week, with a letter to the editor published in The New England Journal of Medicine.

A group of scientists had their letter to the editor published in the journal on August 4.

The letter is about 500 words long and was co-authored by a group of researchers from China and Singapore.

Dr Danielle Anderson – from the Peter Doherty Institute for Infection and Immunity in Melbourne – is listed as a researcher.

What does Taiwan’s CDC say?

Taiwan’s CDC has said it will start work on establishing a method for genome sequencing, according to reports by Taiwan’s news agency.

CDC deputy director-general Chuang Jen-hsiang says its work is also focused on researching potential routes of transmission.

He said scientists were looking to find out whether similar diseases exist in Taiwan.

How does the virus affect people?

Researchers have detected just 35 people with an acute infection so far.

Of that group, 26 were infected by LayV alone, meaning they had no other infections.

All of those 26 people had a fever and roughly 50 percent of the group had fatigue, a cough and sore muscles.

About 30 percent of that group had nausea, headache and vomiting.

The group is made up mostly of farmers and factory workers in the provinces of Henan and Shandong, in China’s north east.

Where did the virus come from?

At this early stage, its been predominantly detected in shrews, small mole-like mammals.

The group of scientists surveyed 25 types of wild animals and LayV RNA was found in 71 of the 262 shrews tested.

“A finding that suggests that the shrew may be a natural reservoir of LayV,” the scientists said.

Can it spread between people?

The scientists said there was no close contact or common exposure history among the patients “which suggests that the infection in the human population may be sporadic”.

They 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,” they noted.

– ABC

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