Experts have found a new virus that starts in animals and can spread to humans. They first located Langya henipavirus, or Langya virus, in eastern China. Henipaviruses are RNA viruses that originate in animals. But experts don’t think the virus can easily spread to people. And so far, it doesn’t seem to be deadly either.
What causes the Langya virus?
The experts studied goats, dogs, pigs, cows and other small wild animals to search for the animal origin of the Langya virus. They found antibodies against the Langya virus in some goats and dogs, as well as viral RNA in a large number of shrews.
Because of this, researchers believe that some species of shrews carry the Langya virus. They believe that humans can be infected directly from these animals or through another animal that contracted the Langya virus from a shrew.
But studies show that only 35 people have contracted Langya since 2018. None of these cases appear to be related. This means that, so far, person-to-person transmission is not a cause for concern. But experts want to make sure this virus doesn’t start to spread further.
The experts who found the virus monitored people in three hospitals in eastern China. They tested those with a fever between April 2018 and August 2021. The research team found that most of the 35 people with the virus were farmers. And most of them said they had been in contact with an animal within a month of the start of their symptoms.
Fortunately, experts have seen nothing in recent data to suggest that the Langya virus could reach a pandemic-level concern. But to keep this virus under control, it’s important that researchers continue to test people and animals regularly.
What are the symptoms of the Langya virus?
The Langya virus can cause respiratory symptoms such as:
The virus is similar to two other henipaviruses that can infect people. They include the Hendra virus and the Nipah virus. These also cause respiratory infections, but these viruses can be fatal.
How do doctors treat the Langya virus?
There is no approved treatment for henipaviruses. Only a few antiviral options have been tested by experts in animal studies. There is also no specific vaccine for the Langya virus.
But ribavirin can be a good treatment. Doctors often use this drug for viral infections without a current treatment option. Ribavirin is useful for RNA viruses and may be useful for those that cause respiratory problems.
Studies show that ribavirin is effective for Hendra and Nipah viruses. The malaria drug chloroquine could also help treat these two. So these two therapies can also help control the Langya virus if needed.