The Nipah Virus has sparked fears among scientists and health professionals due to its high rate of mutation and it being extremely deadly. The mortality rate of Nipah ranges between 40 and 75 percent, which is much higher than the one percent deaths seen through Covid-19. The World Health Organization (WHO) has named the disease as one of 16 priority pathogens that need to be looked into due to its potential to spark another global pandemic.
What is the Nipah virus?
The Nipah virus is a zoonotic illness, which means it is transmitted to people from animals – much like the coronavirus.
The virus can also be transmitted through contaminated food or directly from person-to-person.
Nipah can also cause significant reactions in animals, such as pigs, resulting in significant economic losses for farmers around the world.
So far, the Nipah virus has only caused a few known outbreaks in Asia.
The Nipah has infected a wide range of animals and caused severe disease and death in people, according to the WHO.
During the first recognised outbreak, which took place in Malaysia and Singapore, most human infections resulted from direct contact with sick pigs or their contaminated tissue.
Transmission is thought to have happened via unprotected exposure to secretions from the pigs, or unprotected contact with the tissue of the sick animal.
Subsequent outbreaks took place in Bangladesh and India, but this time, through consumption of fruits or fruit products contaminated with urine or saliva from infected fruit bats.
Human-to-human transmission of the Nipah virus has been reported among family members and caregivers of infected patients.
The WHO has identified the Nipah Virus as a “priority research for the WHO Research and Development Blueprint”.
So far, no drugs or vaccines have been found that target the Nipah virus successfully.
But very worryingly, Nipah is just one of 260 known viruses with the potential to bring on an epidemic or pandemic.
What are the symptoms of the Nipah virus?
Infection with Nipah Virus (NiV) can cause mild to severe disease in humans, including swelling of the brain and potential death.
Symptoms typically appear in four to 14 days following initial exposure to the virus.
The illness initially presents as three to 14 days of fever and headaches, and often includes signs of respiratory illness, such as a cough, sore throat and difficulty breathing.
A phase of brain swelling (encephalitis) may follow, in which symptoms can include drowsiness, disorientation and mental confusion, which can quickly progress into a coma.
- Sore throat
- Difficulty breathing
Severe symptoms that could follow:
- Brain swelling (encephalitis)