'Little-known' virus may have infected 35 people in China: report

'Little-known' virus may have infected 35 people in China: report
Beijing, China in 2011 (Wikimedia Commons).

In light of all the misery that the COVID-19 pandemic has inflicted, the last words that people around the world want to hear are “new virus.” But when new viruses develop, it remains to be seen how dangerous they will be. And a lot still needs to be learned about Langya henipavirus — a new virus in China that, according to Daily Beast reporter Allen Cheng, may have infected as many as 35 people in the Shandong and Henan provinces over a two-year period.

But “may” is the operative word, as the virus is only “suspected” to have caused those infections, Cheng reports.

“It’s related to Hendra and Nipah viruses, which cause disease in humans,” according to Cheng. “However, there’s much we don’t know about the new virus — known as LayV for short — including whether it spreads from human to human…. Researchers in China first detected this new virus as part of routine surveillance in people with a fever who had reported recent contact with animals.”

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Cheng continues, “Once the virus was identified, the researchers looked for the virus in other people. Symptoms reported appeared to be mostly mild — fever, fatigue, cough, loss of appetite, muscle aches, nausea and headache — although we don’t know how long the patients were unwell. A smaller proportion had potentially more serious complications, including pneumonia, and abnormalities in liver and kidney function. However, the severity of these abnormalities, the need for hospitalization, and whether any cases were fatal were not reported.”

According to Cheng, the researchers in China “also investigated whether domestic or wild animals may have been the source of the virus.”

“Although they found a small number of goats and dogs that may have been infected with the virus in the past, there was more direct evidence a significant proportion of wild shrews were harboring the virus,” Cheng explains. “This suggests humans may have caught the virus from wild shrews.”

The family of viruses that the Hendra and Nipah viruses are part of, Cheng notes, “was the inspiration for the fictional MEV-1 virus in the film ‘Contagion.’”

READ MORE: Long COVID-19 may be caused by overactive immune systems

Released in 2011, “Contagion” came eight years before the COVID-19 pandemic started in Wuhan, China in late 2019. COVID-19 generated a renewed interest in “Contagion,” which starred Matt Damon, Gwyneth Paltrow, Laurence Fishburne and others. “Contagion” also featured CNN’s Dr. Sanjay Gupta discussing the fictional MEV-1 virus; in real life, Gupta was later called upon to discuss COVID-19 — which, according to Johns Hopkins University in Baltimore, has killed more than 6.4 million people worldwide and over 1 million people in the United States.

Cheng notes, “Little is known about this new virus, (LayV), and the currently reported cases are likely to be the tip of the iceberg. At this stage, there is no indication the virus can spread from human to human. Further work is required to determine how severe the infection can be, how it spreads, and how widespread it might be in China and the region.”

READ MORE: Biden's health improving, no close contacts tested positive for COVID: White House

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