What we know about the new Langya virus detected in China

Experts say Australians need ‘no need to panic’ over the emergence of a new virus in China, which has infected at least 35 people so far.
The virus, named Langya henipavirus (LayV), is believed to have originated in animals, most likely shrews – small furry mammals that look like mice.
Professor Adrian Esterman, chair of biostatistics and epidemiology at the University of South Australia, said while it is important to continue monitoring the virus, there is currently no reason to s worry about Australia.
“I don’t think there’s any need to panic or worry at this point,” he said.

“All the patients in China work with animals, they’re mostly farmers, and the Chinese aren’t reporting any human-to-human transmission… so I think we’re just keeping an eye on this one and not worrying too much about it right now. moment.”

What do we know about LayV?

Professor Eddie Holmes, from the School of Life and Environmental Sciences and the School of Medical Sciences at the University of Sydney, said that LayV is a relative of the Hendra virus, which in Australia is found commonly in bats and horses.
“It’s not really a new virus, it was first described in 2018,” he added.

“Nobody died, nobody got seriously ill, and most importantly, there’s no human-to-human transmission, so it’s not really something to worry about right now, but it’s is something we need to continue to monitor.”

The virus was detected during tests on patients who had recently been exposed to animals in eastern China, according to a report published in the
It was initially found in a throat swab from a patient, with 35 patients later identified as having an acute infection in eastern China’s Shandong and Henan provinces.
Patients presented with symptoms such as fever, fatigue, cough, nausea and headache.

Among the 25 species of small wild animals studied, LayV RNA was mainly detected in shrews.


Among the 25 species studied by the scientists, the LayV RNA was mainly detected in shrews. Source: AAP / Mary Evans/Ardea/Duncan Usher

The report said there was no close contact or common exposure history among the patients.

Should Australians be worried?

According to Prof Esterman and Prof Holmes, there is no reason for Australia to be concerned about LayV.
Professor Holmes said at the moment the best thing to do is just “keep watching”.
“The warning sign would be if there was human transmission; if that happened then I think there would be more concern globally, the World Health Organization would get involved and governments would act, but at the moment there is no evidence of this”, I said

“So the main thing is that the Chinese authorities keep monitoring, keep monitoring and tell us what’s going on. That’s key. As long as we keep monitoring, I think we’re actually in a pretty good position. .”

Professor Esterman agrees.
“We’re much more aware of viruses right now because of COVID-19,” he said.

“The fact is…there are well over 200 viruses that cause disease in humans, and we discover three or four every year, so it’s not unusual to have a new virus that is discovered.”

Is it similar to COVID-19?

As well as being a different virus family, Prof Holmes said LayV differs from COVID-19 in its transmissibility.
“COVID-19 was really quite striking because the first time we heard about it was that it was spreading very easily among people,” he said.
“In the case of this particular virus, there is no evidence that the virus is transmitted from person to person … in each case, the 35 people in China probably caught it directly from an animal .

“It’s very different from the situation we see with COVID-19.”