Two people have died from the Nipah virus in India in recent weeks and many more are feared to be carriers of the deadly disease, which kills up to 75% of those infected.
Officials in India are scrambling to contain the virus by closing schools, offices and public transportation to stop the easily spread disease.
Nipah is identified by the World Health Organization as a high-priority disease that has the potential to cause another global pandemic, which would make any outbreak a public health crisis.
“Nipah virus is a zoonotic virus (it is transmitted from animals to humans) and can also be transmitted through contaminated food or directly between humans,” the WHO says on its website.
Not only does the disease spread easily, but the incubation period can last up to 45 days, so people who carry the Nipah virus have no symptoms and feel healthy – even if they spread the infection to others.
There is no vaccine or cure for Nipah infection, so treatment is usually limited to relieving symptoms – fever, headache, cough, sore throat and vomiting – in those suffering from the disease.
In severe cases, patients may experience disorientation, seizures, coma or brain swelling (encephalitis). according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.
In fact, some people who survive a Nipah infection experience long-term neurological symptoms such as seizures, convulsions and erratic personality changes.
The Nipah virus can infect many different animals, including horses, pigs, sheep, goats, cats, dogs and especially bats.
“It is carried by flying foxes that sit in the treetops,” says Dr. Joanne Macdonald, associate professor of molecular engineering at the University of the Sunshine Coast in Australia. told the Guardian. “They can urinate and contaminate fruit, and when people eat that, they get the virus and then get sick.”
Additional outbreaks of Nipah virus have occurred since the virus was first discovered in 1998 among pigs and pig farmers in Malaysia and Singapore.
The current outbreak is concentrated in the southern Indian state of Kerala, where previous outbreaks were recorded in 2018, 2019 and 2021.
Together with Nipah, the The WHO has identified additional “priority diseases”.” that have the potential to cause the next pandemic: Marburg and Ebola viruses; Crimean-Congo hemorrhagic fever; Lassa fever; Rift Valley Fever; Middle East Respiratory Syndrome, also known as MERS; severe acute respiratory syndrome, commonly referred to as SARS; COVID-19 and Zika virus.
The last disease on the WHO list has the frightening name “Disease
As a new pathogen – be it a virus, bacteria, fungus or other pathogen – there will likely be no vaccines or few, if any, treatment options.
“This is not the stuff of science fiction,” said Dr. Richard Hatchett, CEO of the Coalition for Epidemic Preparedness Innovations. told the Telegraph. “This is a scenario we need to prepare for.”