In China, nearly three years after the COVID pandemic broke out, 35 people have fallen ill with a new virus. According to scientists, it is too early to determine if the virus spreads among humans and if it is deadly.

The newly-identified virus is the Langya henipavirus – or LayV – that belongs to a family of viruses “known to infect humans and cause fatal disease,” as reported in a peer-reviewed study in the New England Journal of Medicine. Another virus in this family is the Nipah virus, which spreads from pigs and is fatal for up to 75% of those infected.

“There was no close contact. or common exposure history among the patients, which suggests that the infection in the human population may be sporadic,” the report said.

“Contact tracing of 9 patients with 15 close-contact family members revealed no close-contact LayV transmission, but our sample size was too small” to be certain, the report included.

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Scientists conducted testing on 25 species of wild animals, discovering that shrews – small, furry mole-like mammals – “may be a natural reservoir of LayV.”

A shrew

LayV seems to be jumping from animals to humans, causing 35 confirmed cases in Shandong and Henan provinces. So far, none have proven to be deadly.

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While no one has died from the virus yet, many have developed “abnormalities.” 54% of those infected developed leukopenia, a condition that results in a decrease in white blood cells, which are responsible for fighting off disease.

Over a third developed impaired liver function, and 8% experienced worsening kidney functions.

The patients, who are mainly farmers, have also reported fatigue, cough, loss of appetite, and aches.

Taiwan’s Center for Disease Control is closely monitoring the situation and will begin to screen for the virus.

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