Trinidad and Tobago is paying close attention to Eastern China where at least 35 patients have been infected with the phylogenetically distinct Langya henipavirus (LayV) across two provinces.
This comes less than three years into the coronavirus pandemic and was confirmed in a report published by The New England Journal of Medicine.
At this time, the virus is being spread from animal to human. There are no human-to-human transmissions reported yet.
Nonetheless, Chief Medical Officer Dr Roshan Parasram has noted that the Ministry of Health is aware of the disease and is monitoring it.
“If COVID has taught us anything is to be on the be on the alert for new viruses, especially with the way persons travel. A virus could be in one part of the world today and then in another during that same day so it is something that we have to keep a very close eye on… look at the spread and seeing what is happening, if it is being able to spread from person to person and then, of course, take the necessary steps.”
He added that the International Health Regulations (IHR) network will alert the rest of the world should the virus become a global health threat.
The IHR is an agency which was established in 2005 and has a legally binding agreement with 196 countries to build the capability to detect and report potential public health emergencies worldwide.
“We await further updates through the IHR network but it’s something that we will keep a very close eye on,” Dr Parasram said.
Langya is believed to have been spread by small mammals that subsist on insects. These animals could have hosted the virus before it infected humans.
The pathogen is part of the henipavirus family which has five other known viruses, two of which are considered highly virulent. According to the US Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, these two are considered to have high case-fatality ratios. However, none of the Langya patients have died according to the study.
The virus was discovered during surveillance testing of fever-affected patients with a recent history of animal exposure. An examination of 26 patients who only had Langya revealed symptoms including a fever, fatigue, cough and nostalgia.
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