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What is Hendra Virus? Should you be worried?

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New Delhi, Aug 12: A new virus, Langya henipavirus, is suspected to have caused infections in 35 people in China's Shandong and Henan provinces over roughly a two-year period to 2021. It belongs to a family of viruses known as Paramyxoviridae.

This new virus appears to be a close cousin of two other viruses: Hendra and Nipah viruses, which are known to infect humans.

What is Hendra Virus? Should you be worried?

So what is Hendra virus? Let us now read more about this henipavirus

Hendra virus (HeV) is a member of the family Paramyxoviridae, genus Henipavirus. HeV was first isolated in 1994 from specimens obtained during an outbreak of respiratory and neurologic disease in horses and humans in Hendra, a suburb of Brisbane, Australia.

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Natural Host: The natural reservoir for Hendra virus has since been identified as the flying fox (bats of the genus Pteropus) but they can also infect other animals.

Past outbreak: Since 1994, Hendra virus infections in humans remain rare. Many outbreaks in horses have been reported in Queensland and northern New South Wales since, and are generally thought to be due to "spillover" infections from flying foxes. In total, seven human cases of Hendra virus have been reported in Australia (mostly veterinarians working with sick horses), including four deaths.

Signs and Symptoms
After an incubation of 9-16 days, infection with Hendra virus can lead to respiratory illness with severe flu-like signs and symptoms. In some cases, illness may progress to encephalitis.

Fever, cough, sore throat, headache and tiredness are common initial symptoms. Meningitis or encephalitis (inflammation of the brain) can develop, causing headache, high fever, and drowsiness, and sometimes convulsions and coma.

Explained: What is the new zoonotic virus that has hit ChinaExplained: What is the new zoonotic virus that has hit China

Is it fatal?

Although infection with Hendra virus is rare, the case fatality is high: 4/7 (57%). Of 7 recognized humans infected with Hendra virus, only 4 survived.

Transmission
People can get Hendra virus from contact with infected horses or the tissues or body fluids (excretions) of infected horses. Horses may be infected after exposure to virus in the urine of infected flying foxes.

To date, no human-to-human transmission has been documented.

Treatment
The drug ribavirin has been shown to be effective against the viruses in vitro, but the clinical usefulness of this drug is uncertain.

A post-exposure therapy with a Nipah/Hendra neutralizing antibody, efficacious in animal models is in human preclinical development stages in Australia.

Prevention
The occurrence of the disease in humans has been associated only with infection of an intermediate species such as horses. Early recognition of the disease in the intermediate animal host is probably the most crucial means of limiting future human cases.

Hendra virus infection can be prevented by avoiding horses that are ill or may be infected with HeV and using appropriate personal protective equipment when contact is necessary, as in veterinary procedures.

A commercial vaccine has been recently licensed in Australia for horses and could be beneficial for other animal species and eventually humans.

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