Nipah virus kills over a dozen people in Kerala, India
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The deadly virus has a mortality rate which can rise to 75 percent once it transmits to humans. Outbreaks have been clustered in south-east Asia and in one local epidemic in India, 89 percent of those infected died in 2018. Such is the high mortality rate of the virus, experts have warned it could be the cause of the next pandemic.
The World Health Organisation (WHO) has identified the contagion as one of the most likely candidates for a pandemic.
In 2018, an outbreak was reported in Kerala, south India where 17 people of the 19 infected were killed.
A further outbreak was reported in 2019 but an extensive contact tracing system was deployed to nullify the virus.
However, as reported by the health website Gavi Alliance, if the virus does transmit to humans, there is fear it could be devastating.
They said: “If the virus spreads to other parts of India and beyond, the potential for it to escalate into an epidemic, or pandemic, is high.
“Even though high case-fatality rates can sometimes actually prevent diseases from spreading, because it can mean a patient dies before they have a chance to pass it on to others, if the virus were to mutate to spread more easily between people, the outcome would likely be utterly devastating.”
Speaking to the A24 News Agency, Doctor Veasna Duong, from the Virology Unit at the Pasteur Institute in Battambang, Cambodia, also issued her concern over the spread of the virus.
He said: “We have a virus that can infect humans, it can cause disease and kill, there is an interface present between humans and bats, and human behaviour is a factor, where people don’t understand the virus.
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“In my opinion, the virus is among the top five candidates for the next pandemic.
“It takes only one chance that the virus passes to humans and spreads like wildfire in human populations and we will not be able to stop it and control its spread as quickly as possible.
“Luckily Nipah virus seems to cause sporadic outbreaks, and with limited human to human transmissions, but if in the future this virus can transmit between humans very efficiently, like coronavirus, it will be much more of a disaster when compared to COVID-19”.
The virus is located within fruit bats and is transmitted via their droppings.
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It can move to humans if food or fluids are contaminated with bat droppings and can take up to 45 days for symptoms to show.
With bats living in close to proximity to markets, schools and tourists hotspots, there is concern it could easily spill over.
Speaking to The Sun, Dr Melanie Saville, head of vaccine research and development at the Coalition for Epidemic Preparedness Innovations said the world needs to prepare for the next big outbreak post-Covid.
She added: “Nipah is one of the viruses that could absolutely be the cause of a new pandemic.
“Several things about Nipah are very concerning.
“Most crucially we shouldn’t just be looking at Nipah.
“We know that a future pandemic is inevitable, and there are many other emerging infectious diseases that are recognised as having pandemic potential.”
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