Is this new Chinese respiratory disease affecting children serious and zoonotic?

I would think that some people are a little concerned about the news from China of hospitals being overwhelmed with sick children after a surge in respiratory illnesses. It sounds a bit like Covid-19 all over again. And as you know, Covid-19 is a zoonosis which means it’s a disease which humans caught from animals.

However, according to Chinese health officials, the current worrying spread of this respiratory illness in northern China is due to “overlapping respiratory diseases including influenza, respiratory syncytial virus (a cold-like virus) and the legacy of Covid-19. Beijing Hospital appears to be almost overwhelmed with parents and kids registering with respiratory diseases.

Is this new Chinese respiratory disease affecting children serious and zoonotic?
Langya virus thought to come from the shrew. Image: MikeB
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Langya virus

However, there is a parallel story circulating online about a recently detected virus in eastern China which is reported in a study in March 2023 and is therefore quite recent. The study is titled: Is the New Langya virus in China a threat to global health? A short communication.

This virus was first detected in eastern China in 2018 and is a zoonosis. They believe it’s was transmitted from shrews and that the shrew might be a reservoir for this virus which is called the Langya virus.

At the time, 35 patients were reported to have contracted the disease. The virus appears to be related to HeV, which was first identified in Queensland, Australia in 1994. We don’t know how dangerous this virus is at the moment. The recommendation is to monitor it and wait.

Lack of clarity

As you might expect, it is difficult to find clarity in the reporting. And if we are honest, we don’t trust the Chinese to be totally transparent about zoonotic diseases originating in China because of our experiences with Covid-19 when they covered it up until it was too late. And they also covered up the Wuhan bio lab alleged virus escape which might be the source of Covid-19.

Concern over another global zoonosis

The question really is whether the respiratory disease affecting children is zoonotic and whether it can spread to other countries as occurred with Covid. At the moment there is nothing to indicate that this is the case, but I’ve read that experts believe there will be another pandemic and countries should be prepared this time. They probably are not because most people think that Covid-19 was a once-in-a-lifetime event. They shouldn’t be so confident about that.

Note: Respiratory syncytial virus, also called human respiratory syncytial virus and human orthopneumovirus, is a common, contagious virus that causes infections of the respiratory tract (Wikipedia).

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