Differentiating Langya Henipavirus From Common Illnesses

  • Ming Ching TsaiMaster of Clinical Pharmacology - MSc, University of Glasgow, Scotland
  • Yuna Chow BSc (Hons), Medicine, University of St Andrews

Get health & wellness advice into your inbox

Your privacy is important to us. Any information you provide to us via this website may be placed by us on servers. If you do not agree to these placements, please do not provide the information.

Best Milk Alternative


The world still has not fully recovered from the shadow of the COVID-19 pandemic. However, in the first week of August 2022, another incident was reported where 35 patients were infected by a newly identified Henipavirus, named the Langya virus, in eastern China – a scenario that shared much similarity with COVID-19.1

Henipavirus is under the family of Paramyxoviridae and so far eight different viral members have been discovered.1,2 Among them, the Hendra virus and the Nipah virus are often under discussion in medicine due to them causing severe acute respiratory distress in humans and having high mortality rates.1,3 

The public health concern has risen to different social media platforms since the Langya virus appeared. People are afraid of facing the nightmare of COVID-19 again. However, is it a true story? Today, the article aims to introduce the Langya virus and tell you the difference between this viral illness and other common viral illnesses. 

Overview of Langya virus

Langya virus is the latest identified virus in the genus Henipavirus under the family of Paramyxoviridae.3 The viral structure includes an envelope encasing single-stranded RNA, which comprises 18,402 nucleotides.4

At the first scene, the virus was detected in a throat swab sample from a patient in China, and it was found that the structure was genetically different from other viruses within the genus Henipavirus.1 As a result, scientists named it the Langya henipavirus (LayV).1

The current geographical distribution of the LayV is still under investigation and so far 35 patients have been confirmed to have the infection, all of whom remain in Shandong province and Henan province of eastern China.1,3

The reason that the LayV appearance raised high concern in the public is that in the past, the other two viruses also belonging to the genus Henipavirus, the Handra and Nipah viruses, demonstrated zoonotic transmission and caused fatal neurological disease and acute respiratory distress syndrome in humans.5 Therefore, many scientists were worried about bringing another new wave of pandemic after the discovery of LayV.

According to the statistics published in Elsevier, 22 out of 35 patients with LayV infection work as farmers and the cases do not show particular spatial aggregation.1 It indicates that LayV is most likely a zoonotic virus and not just limited to regional events as well. It could spread potentially to the large scale of a nation or even the globe. Because the 35 patients have no history of close contact or common exposure among them, it seems to eliminate the possibility of human transmission in this scenario.1 However, the small cases still may not be able to reflect the true reality in the large-scale society and fully rule out the possibility of human transmission. 

Moreover, few cases show severe complications like kidney and liver failure after the viral infection.1 As a result, it is important for physicians to further differentiate the LayV infection from the common illnesses in diagnosis and also crucial for the public to be aware of severe viral illness from the common illnesses.  

Clinical Presentation

The common cold refers to one or several viral infections that cause mild upper respiratory illnesses.6 Patients usually present with inflammation of mucosal membranes in the nasal passage and throat.6

The common cold is also highly contagious and can spread easily through aerosols when patients sneeze or cough into air.6 Then the airborne droplet would be inhaled by another person.6

30% to 50% of patients with common cold are infected by rhinovirus and, following this, 10% to 15% of common colds are caused by coronavirus. Influenza viruses account for 5% to 15% of common cold cases.7 

Although patients with the LayV infections present with similar symptoms like common cold, which can be easily mistaken as being caused by the usual common cold viruses, some unusual symptoms may raise red flags for the public to do further investigation in hospital. 

Comparing Symptoms: Langya Henipavirus vs. Common Illnesses

As stated in Table 1, it is clear that patients with LayV infections share similar symptoms with common cold. It may be hard for the public to differentiate the LayV infection from the common cold. However, it is observed that approximately 14% of confirmed cases with LayV infection exhibited gingival bleeding (gum bleeding) and therefore required hospitalisation.8 The event of gingival bleeding corresponds to the sign of thrombocytopenia induced by LayV infection.7,8 Therefore, the presence of gingival bleeding accompanied by other mild cold symptoms may be an initial signal of severe illness for the public and prompt them to go for hospitals early check-up.8

Infection Types/SymptomsLangya Henipavirus Common Cold
FeverLow-grade fever
FatigueMild Fatigue
AnorexiaNasal stuffiness/ discharge
VomitingSore/scratchy throat
Thrombocytopenia Mild hacking cough
Impaired liver functionMuscle achiness 
Impaired renal functionChills
Table 1. The comparison of signs and symptoms in Langya Henipavirus and common cold.1,6 The left coloum presents with Langya Henivirus signs and symptoms and the right coloum presents with common cold signs and symptoms.

Diagnostic Methods

The laboratory diagnosis is made by performing a combination of tests. The common laboratory tests include the virus isolation from throat or cerebrospinal fluid (CSF), reverse transcription PCR of serum, and enzyme-linked immunosorbent assay (ELISA) of serum or CSF.3

Reverse transcription PCR of serum is used to transcribe viral RNA to DNA and amplify the DNA to measure the amount of virus in the sample. ELISA is a technique used to accelerate the immunoassay process in different laboratory tests to examine antibodies, antigens, protein, and hormones existing in blood samples.9 Immunoassay testing is also an important method to discover the interaction between antigens and antibodies in the laboratory setting.9 Different viruses carry out particular antigens which allow clinical scientists to identify viral categories precisely.9 The three methods mentioned play vital roles in allowing  physicians to diagnose LayV infections.

Treatment and management

Currently, there are no available antiviral medicines or valid vaccinations for LayV infections.10 The aim of disease treatment is supportive care, where medicines are provided to alleviate the symptoms induced by LayV like fever, cough, and stuffy nose.3,10 An in vitro study has shown the effectiveness of Ribavirin, an antiviral drug, but further investigative in vivo studies and clinical trials are still required to confirm the drug therapeutic use.3

Complications and Prognosis

Patients with LayV infections present with mild signs and symptoms like fever (100%), fatigue (54%), cough (50%), and anorexia (50%), but there are still some patients who develop the complications of liver failure and kidney failure.1,10


Scientists have detected the LayV RNA species in goats (3 of 168 [2%]), dogs (4 of 79 [5%]), and shrews (71/162 [27%]) in the serosurvey of domestic animals.1 The high incidence of RNA species in shrews may indicate the shrew is the natural reservoir of LayV because viruses require live hosts to supply nutrition for them to replicate in growth. From here, we can understand that travellers should avoid close contact with shrews and their faeces to prevent the LayV infections. However, the zoonotic transmission pathway is still not yet determined until further investigation is established in the future. 


Langya virus is the newly identified virus in the genus of henipavirus. The number of confirmed cases still remains small with only 35 patients and so far evidence for human-to-human transmission has not been found among the 35 cases. However, the possibility for human transmission cannot be ruled out with full certainty due to the small sample size of the studies performed. As a result, it is still important for physicians to differentiate the LayV infection from common illness. 

Gingival bleeding could be the initial sign of severe illness to prompt the public to go for early check-up in hospitals. The current treatments for LayV infections involve the supportive care of symptoms. The medicinal cures or vaccines are not currently available. It is paramount for the public to go for early check-ups in hospitals so they can avoid treatment delays and the development of severe complications. 


  1. Langya virus, a newly identified Henipavirus in China - Zoonotic pathogen causing febrile illness in humans, and its health concerns: Current knowledge and counteracting strategies – Correspondence. International Journal of Surgery [Internet]. 2022 [cited 2024 Feb 21]; 105:106882. Available from: https://www.sciencedirect.com/science/article/abs/pii/S1743919122006598
  2. Zhai S-L, Zhou X, Gou H-C, Zhang K-L, Li C-L. Henipavirus naming  and regional discrimination. The Lancet Microbe [Internet]. 2023 [cited 2024 Feb 22]; 4(12):e969. Available from: https://linkinghub.elsevier.com/retrieve/pii/S2666524723002951.
  3. Henipavirus Infections | CDC Yellow Book 2024 [Internet]. [cited 2024 Feb 22]. Available from:   https://wwwnc.cdc.gov/travel/yellowbook/2024/infections-diseases/henipavirus-infections#:~:text=770%2D488%2D7100-,Infectious%20Agent,with%20high%20case%2Dfatality%20ratios.
  4. Lee B, Broder CC, Wang LF. Henipaviruses: Hendra and Nipah Viruses. Fields Virology: Emerging Viruses. Philadelphia, PA: Lippincott Williams & Wilkins. 2020
  5. Weatherman S, Feldmann H, Wit E de. Transmission of henipaviruses. Current Opinion in Virology [Internet]. 2018 [cited 2024 Feb 23]; 28:7–11. Available from: https://www.sciencedirect.com/science/article/pii/S1879625717301104.
  6. Common Cold [Internet]. [cited 2024 Feb 23]. Available from: https://www.hopkinsmedicine.org/health/conditions-and-diseases/common-cold
  7. Heikkinen T, Järvinen A. The common cold. The Lancet [Internet]. 2003 [cited 2024 Feb 23]; 361(9351):51–9. Available from: https://www.sciencedirect.com/science/article/pii/S0140673603121629
  8. Mungmunpuntipantip R, Wiwanitkit. V. Gingival bleeding in Langya Henipavirus and severity of infection: A concern. Journal of Stomatology, Oral and Maxillofacial Surgery [Internet]. 2023 [cited 2024 Feb 23]; 124(1):101269. Available from: https://www.sciencedirect.com/science/article/pii/S2468785522002373
  9. ELISA Technique. Cleveland Clinic [Internet]. [cited 2024 Feb 24]. Available from:  https://my.clevelandclinic.org/health/articles/24990-elisa
  10. What is Langya Henipavirus? Cleveland Clinic [Internet]. [cited 2024 Feb 24]. Available from: https://my.clevelandclinic.org/health/diseases/langya-henipavirus.

Get health & wellness advice into your inbox

Your privacy is important to us. Any information you provide to us via this website may be placed by us on servers. If you do not agree to these placements, please do not provide the information.

Best Milk Alternative
[optin-monster-inline slug="yw0fgpzdy6fjeb0bbekx"]
This content is purely informational and isn’t medical guidance. It shouldn’t replace professional medical counsel. Always consult your physician regarding treatment risks and benefits. See our editorial standards for more details.

Get our health newsletter

Get daily health and wellness advice from our medical team.
Your privacy is important to us. Any information you provide to this website may be placed by us on our servers. If you do not agree do not provide the information.

Ming Ching Tsai

Master of Clinical Pharmacology - MSc, University of Glasgow, Scotland

A clinical research associate in a pharmaceutical company, with dual degrees in Nursing Science and Clinical Pharmacology. She also has several years of experience as a registered nurse at medical centers in Singapore and Taiwan. Her passion for medical writing is to integrate the latest information in medicine and convey the concept in a simple way to the public.

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *

my.klarity.health presents all health information in line with our terms and conditions. It is essential to understand that the medical information available on our platform is not intended to substitute the relationship between a patient and their physician or doctor, as well as any medical guidance they offer. Always consult with a healthcare professional before making any decisions based on the information found on our website.
Klarity is a citizen-centric health data management platform that enables citizens to securely access, control and share their own health data. Klarity Health Library aims to provide clear and evidence-based health and wellness related informative articles. 
Klarity / Managed Self Ltd
Alum House
5 Alum Chine Road
Westbourne Bournemouth BH4 8DT
VAT Number: 362 5758 74
Company Number: 10696687

Phone Number:

 +44 20 3239 9818