Nipah: New Deadly Virus on WHO’s Top 10 for Likely Major Outbreak

Nipah Virus

At least 10 people have died from the deadly Nipah virus in India recently, according to a report published by Time. The report also states that 9 more have tested positive for the infection.

The Nipah virus is a deadly disease that’s on the rise in Bangladesh and India. Currently, the virus has no cure or vaccine and is easily passed from human to human.

In the current outbreak, the BBC reports that one nurse who treated several sick patients has also died from the virus.

The virus is thought to be spread by fruit bats who may be natural hosts for the disease. However, one of the first outbreaks of Nipah involved infection of pigs which was then passed onto humans.

Currently, Nipah is one of the top 10 diseases that the World Health Organization deems a possible source for major outbreak, says the BBC. It’s certainly one to watch for.

How Did Nipah Begin?

According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, the first contact with the Nipah virus happened in 1999 in Malaysia and Singapore. The virus was found during an outbreak of encephalitis (inflammation of the brain) among pig farmers.

During this outbreak, nearly 300 people were infected, and 100 people died. Since then, neither Malaysia nor Singapore have reported infection. However, authorities killed over one million pigs to keep the disease from spreading.

Several outbreaks have occurred in Bangladesh and India since then. In Bangladesh, Nipah virus cases occur almost every year.

Interestingly, the strain identified in Bangladesh only 2 years after the first outbreak in Malaysia was identified as a different strain.

Rather than spreading the virus through contact with pigs, people became infected by drinking date palm sap contaminated by bats.

In the most recent outbreak, authorities found mangoes bitten by bats in the house of 3 people suspected to have Nipah. These cases resulted in death, BBC reports.

Because of Nipah’s quick onset and dangerous symptoms, the virus does hold a high fatality rate.

WHO has reported various outbreaks in India and Bangladesh, and fatality rates in these locations have reached up to 77 percent.

The average fatality for Nipah right now stands at 75 percent, a scary number that’s unlikely to fall without a cure.   

What We Know about Nipah

The Nipah virus does seem to present different symptoms in different people. Again, people with the virus commonly show signs of encephalitis, an inflammation of the brain.

When a person comes into contact with the disease, symptoms of fever and headache begin presenting after 5-14 days. Some people have also showcased a respiratory illness during this initial stage.

Then, the infected person goes on to experience mental confusion and disorientation. Within a matter of days, the infection can lead to a deadly coma.

For those who survive, the virus can cause long-term episodes of convulsion and personality fluctuation. The virus has even been known to reactivate years after initial exposure, posing lifelong threats that plague those affected.

As is expected, authorities have placed appropriate emphasis on keeping this virus contained. It’s certainly not one that you’d want coming to a country near you.