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China warns about a new virus called Langya that has made 35 people sick

35 people have been sickened by a new virus that is spreading in China, but scientists say it is too soon to say if it is deadly or if it spreads from person to person.

The Langya henipavirus, or LayV, seems to be spreading from animals in some parts of China, almost three years after the coronavirus pandemic began there.

It comes from a family of viruses that "are known to infect humans and cause fatal disease," according to a study in the New England Journal of Medicine by an international team of scientists led by Chinese researchers.

The World Health Organization says that the Nipah virus, which spreads from pigs and kills up to 75% of people who get it, is one example.

But none of the 35 confirmed cases of LayV found in the provinces of Shandong and Henan have been fatal so far.

About 26 of these people were found to have only LayV and no other illnesses. They all had fevers, and about half of them also felt tired and coughed.

The new Langya henipavirus, or LayV, closely resembles the Nipah virus, which kills up to 75% of those infected.
The new Langya henipavirus, or LayV, closely resembles the Nipah virus, which kills up to 75% of those infected.
Getty Images/iStockphoto

There were also other "abnormalities." More than half, 54%, got leukopenia, which is a drop in the number of white blood cells that fight disease in the blood. More than a third also had problems with their liver, and 8% saw their kidneys get worse.

Scientists tested 25 kinds of wild animals in the area and found LayV in 27% of the shrews they looked at. This suggests that the small, furry mammals that look like moles "may be a natural reservoir of LayV," the scientists wrote.

Scientists have known for a long time that the same family of viruses can spread from person to person. However, there have not been enough cases of LayV to "determine the status of human-to-human transmission," they said.

People walk around downtown Beijing
Nearly three dozen people have been sickened by LayV in China.
iStock/Getty Images

"There was no close contact or shared history of exposure between the patients, which suggests that the infection may be random in the human population," the study said with hope.

The report said, "Contact tracing of 9 patients with 15 close family members showed no close-contact LayV transmission, but our sample size was too small to be sure."

Channel NewsAsia said that the Centers for Disease Control (CDC) in Taiwan is one of the groups keeping a close eye on the spread of the virus.

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