New Henipavirus Identified in China May Be Problematic: Expert

New Henipavirus Identified in China May Be Problematic: Expert
A shrew sits on an autumnally colored leaf on Oct. 6, 2015 in Rossdorf near Darmstadt, western Germany. (Frank Rumpenhorst/DPA/AFP via Getty Images)
Kathleen Li

A new Henipavirus, named Langya henipavirus (LayV), was first identified in China in 2018 through a throat swab sample from a patient with a fever, according to a peer-reviewed medical journal.

Henipaviruses are an important emerging cause of zoonotic disease, that is, transmitted from animals to humans, according to BMJ Best Practice, a medical information platform. Among the five known species of Henipaviruses, two infect humans (Nipah and Hendra) and are associated with high case-fatality ratios. The Henipavirus is closely related to these two viruses.
Patients infected with LayV suffered from fever and other symptoms, such as fatigue, cough, anorexia, myalgia, nausea, headache, and vomiting—similar to the symptoms of coronavirus. The information was published on Aug. 4 in an article titled “A Zoonotic Henipavirus in Febrile Patients in China” by The New England Journal of Medicine (NEJM).

It is unclear if LayV can be transmitted from human to human, and to date, no deaths from the virus have been reported.

The study was based on samples collected from three selected hospitals in China, one in Qingdao, Shandong Province, and the other two in Xinyang, Henan Province. One hospital in Xinyang is the 990th Hospital of the Chinese PLA, a military hospital; the other two are public hospitals.

However, “the sample size was too small to determine the status of human-to-human transmission for LayV,” the article said.

The first case was confirmed by the throat swab sample collected from a 53-year-old female who suffered acute fever, headache, fatigue, cough, and other symptoms. She sought treatment in one of the three aforementioned Chinese hospitals in December 2018.

From April 2018 to August 2021, the investigation team identified 35 patients with acute LayV infection. Among them, 26 patients were infected with only LayV.

The findings said that shrews are likely to be “a natural reservoir of LayV.”

Shrews are small, mole-like mammals that look like long-nosed mice. They are found worldwide, living in major tropical and temperate areas. However, according to Environmental News Network, shrews in Guinea, Australia, and New Zealand are not native.

The Qingdao Municipal Center for Disease Control and Prevention told The Epoch Times on Aug. 8 that it was unaware of the disease until it was informed that morning. The respondent who answered the phone insisted that “if there is a risk [related to LayV], the authorities will announce it.”

However, given that the Chinese Communist Party (CCP) systematically prevented any open and thorough investigation of the origins of COVID-19, it is improbable that it will disclose any details it has on the Langya henipavirus (LayV) disease.

According to the "Activity at the Wuhan Institute of Virology" (WIV) fact sheet released by the U.S. Department of State in January 2021, the CCP “devote[d] enormous resources to deceit and disinformation,” that “comes at the expense of public health in China and around the world.”

Dr. Huang Li-Min told Taiwan’s SET News that LayV, an RNA virus with mammals as its primary host, will be more problematic than having a bird host due to more mutating opportunities to spread between humans.

Huang is the chief doctor of the National Taiwan University Hospital Department of Paediatrics.

He also said, at this stage, the best way is to contain the unknown emerging infectious disease is by isolating and trapping its hosts as well as instructing people to stay away from possible infection sources.

Chinese institutes have researched LayV since 2019. The WIV started experiments on animal-derived coronaviruses in 2016 or prior with no indication of a stop before the global COVID-19 outbreak, the U.S. fact sheet on WIV said.

The investigation team of LayV primarily consists of researchers from China’s Beijing Institute of Microbiology and Epidemiology, Qingdao Municipal Center for Disease Control and Prevention, State Key Laboratory of Pathogens and Biosecurity, and Changchun Institute of Veterinary Medicine, and Singapore’s Duke-National University of Singapore Medical School, according to the peer-reviewed medical journal.

Kane Zhong contributed to the report.
Kathleen Li has contributed to The Epoch Times since 2009 and focuses on China-related topics. She is an engineer, chartered in civil and structural engineering in Australia.