2020 should go down in history as the beginning of a new era – ‘The age of infectious diseases.’ Ever since COVID-19, new infectious diseases have cropped up at a rate that precludes giving us breathing space. Obviously, no one told these guys about boundaries. Langya virus is one recent addition to the mix. If you are bemoaning the state of the world because you just cannot take another virus, it is time you got personal with Langya.
1. Where Is the Fire?
The Langya henipavirus (LayV) originated in China. It belongs to the henipavirus genus that has been traced back to animals, with fruit bats being the commonest source. Starting to notice a pattern here? Now we could be wrong, but we bet Batman rues the day he picked his name. In this case, though, the actual virus-harboring animal is the shrew, a mole-like mammal. Despite the unfortunate name and the even more unfortunate show of diseased hands, these guys are real cuties. Moral of the story: do not judge a book by its cover. Also, do not keep shrews for pets. While we are on the subject, the virus was also found in a small percentage of dogs and goats, so pet lovers, beware!
2. The Lineage
LayV comes from a long, illustrious line of havoc-wreaking viruses. If the name ‘henipavirus’ does nothing to jog your memory, try removing the “he” from the beginning. Sound familiar? Yeah, now we’re getting closer (enter Nipah virus). LayV and Nipah virus – same family, same annoying traits, but luckily for us, different wavelengths. So Langya virus is actually much less potent and troublesome than Nipah, particularly since there is as yet no evidence that it can be transmitted between humans. Animals are, for now, the only source of infection. So if you have not been keeping company with shrews (the animals, not people fitting that description) lately, you can relax.
3. Timeline Twist
The twist in this viral tale? The 35 farmers who were diagnosed with this condition were all affected between 2018 and 2021. Given that LayV has only just earned its place on the bad boy list, the timeline could inspire worry. But this is actually good news – because it means the disease has barely made a dent in the last several years. If you were looking for confirmation of an epidemic or pandemic, so you can start panic-buying and crawl under a rock, sorry. This one is pretty straightforward, unlike its cousin Nipah.
4. Symptom Breakdown
The symptoms of LayV are not too different from most other zoonotic viruses, but you can keep this list in mind, should you ever suspect LayV: Fever, leukopenia (low white blood cell count), fatigue, cough, and muscle aches were the commonest symptoms reported (in that order of prevalence), while nausea, vomiting, and headaches also occurred. Thrombocytopenia (low platelet count), and impaired liver and kidney functions have been noted in some cases.
5. To Run or Not to Run?
No, you do not have to run and hide, because the zoonotic nature, absence of human-to-human transmission, and zero fatalities associated with Langya thus far mean that there is hope. Most experts think there is no real danger of this turning into the next big event of the century (one pandemic is enough, thank you). However, there is no guarantee that this is not going to end badly because viruses have this unfortunate mutation tendency when they have been around long enough. But for now, no worries.
For the record, Langya is worth some attention but definitely not worth paranoia. If you must invest in virus-bashing and sleepless nights, maybe practice moderation! Stay cautious, keep away from shrews and bats, but do not let one measly virus get you down.