Nearly three dozen people have been sickened by a new virus spreading in China — with scientists warning it is too early to tell if it is deadly or spreads among humans.
The Langya henipavirus — or LayV — appears to be jumping from animals in parts of China, nearly three years after the coronavirus pandemic started there.
It belongs to a family of viruses that “are known to infect humans and cause fatal disease,” a Chinese-led team of international scientists wrote in a peer-reviewed study in the New England Journal of Medicine.
That includes the Nipah virus, which spreads from pigs and kills up to 75% of those infected, according to the World Health Organization.
However, so far none of the 35 confirmed LayV cases found in Shandong and Henan provinces have proven deadly.
Of those cases, some 26 were found to only have LayV, not other illnesses — and all of them suffered fevers, with half also having fatigue and coughs.
There were other “abnormalities,” with more than half — 54% — developing leukopenia, a decrease in disease-fighting white blood cells in the blood. More than a third also had impaired liver function, and 8% also saw worsening of kidney functions.
After testing 25 species of wild animals in the surrounding areas, scientists found it in 27% of the tested shrews, suggesting the small, furry mole-like mammals “may be a natural reservoir of LayV,” the scientists wrote.
The same family of viruses has previously been known to spread among humans — but there have not been enough LayV cases to “determine the status of human-to-human transmission,” the scientists warned.
“There was no close contact or common exposure history among the patients, which suggests that the infection in the human population may be sporadic,” the study said optimistically.
“Contact tracing of 9 patients with 15 close-contact family members revealed no close-contact LayV transmission, but our sample size was too small” to be certain, the report stressed.
Taiwan’s Centers for Disease Control (CDC) is among those paying close attention to the virus’ spread, Channel NewsAsia stated.