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Tajikistan Grappling with the Langya Virus

First cases of the Langya henipavirus, also known as Langya virus, are detected in Tajikistan near the border region shared with China. 23 Tajik citizens have been sickened by this newly identified virus as they developed fever similar to the fever that was earlier found amongst the sick in eastern China.

The infected, who are mainly travelling farmers, reported respiratory symptoms, severe pneumonia, fatigue, cough, loss of appetite and aches with some developing blood-cell abnormalities and signs of liver and kidney damage. The Langya henipavirus is closely related to two other henipaviruses known to infect humans, the deadly Nipah and Hendra viruses. It affects species including humans, dogs, goats and the original hosts and carriers of the Langya virus, the shrews.

The shrew is a small mole-like mammal, a close relative of the hedgehog. Appears like a long-nosed mouse but is not a rodent.

As this new virus arrived in the republic, the Tajik government is struggling to make sense of the disease. Experts shared that new animal viruses require critical ongoing surveillance. Virologists say that there is an important need to regular testing of people and animals for emerging viruses to understand the risk of zoonotic diseases, viruses that can be transmitted from animals to humans. The Tajik government may not be able to cope with these processes as little is done and almost zero assistance rendered to the sick.

There are widespread fear amongst the people for the virus to spread wildly and widely to the rural villages and highly poverty regions which have no clinics and hospitals and insufficient medical care and resources. The possible outbreak of a pandemic that will shake the country might wipe out the livestock too, leaving the Tajiks with little to fend for themselves.

The Tajik government is already undergoing pressure from the international community from the murder of Mamadboqir Mamadboqirov, known locally as Colonel Boqir. The colonel had been an influential voice inside Gorno-Badakhshan region since the civil war that had rocked the country between 1992 and 1997.

The long climb on a barely existent path to Dukdon Pass in the Fann Mountains

Originally a military commander for the Tajik Pamiris during and after the war, Boqir was assigned to the country’s border security force, as part of the power-sharing agreement between the different sub-ethnic groups who had fought each other just years before. Before the killing of Colonel Boqir and the mass arrests that followed, Khorog, the capital of GBAO, had one of the most vibrant and independent civil societies in Central Asia. Now that is being systematically stripped away.

Now a pandemic that goes out of hand will just be bad news to an already badly managed government. The Langyu virus is probably here to stay.