nipah virus

Nipah virus sparks fears of a second pandemic

Published by Andile Sicetsha

33 days into 2021 and already, the new year bears the markings of its doomed predecessor. Except, this time, the threat of another pandemic comes from the Nipah virus (NiV), an infectious pathogen with a worryingly high death rate.

What is Nipah virus?

A research study conducted by the Access to Medicine Foundation found that the NiV outbreak “could blow at any moment.” What’s more, dealing with this pathogen may not be as straight-forward as its cousin, Covid-19.

“The next pandemic could be a drug-resistant infection,” the report claims.

According to the CDC, NiV is a zoonotic virus that “can spread between animals and people.”

Based on what scientists know, the virus originates from fruit bats and pigs, in some cases.

“Infection with NiV is associated with encephalitis (swelling of the brain) and can cause mild to severe illness and even death,” the CDC says.

Some of NiV’s symptoms include:

  • Fever
  • Headache
  • Cough
  • Sore throat
  • Difficulty breathing
  • Vomiting

In severe cases:

  • Disorientation, drowsiness, or confusion
  • Seizures
  • Coma
  • Brain swelling (encephalitis)

When was the last Nipah outbreak?

The last time the world felt the real threat of the virus was in 1998. The outbreak occurred in Malaysia, where more than 100 people were killed.

NiV was so lethal, it recorded a 75% death rate, making it one of the deadliest viruses we know of.

Are we on the verge of a second pandemic?

So, what’s caused all this concern over a possible second pandemic, you may ask. Well, in the AMF report, it was concluded that pharmaceutical firms were nowhere near prepared to combat a highly infectious virus like NiV, if it did spread as fast as Covid-19.

The latter is very much possible, head of the Netherlands-based non-profit Jayasree K Iyer claims. Asia has, over the years, experienced a high level of deforestation, forcing fruit bats away from thick and dense forests and into habitats occupied by humans and other susceptible animals like pigs.

All it takes is for a fruit bat to contaminate a date palm fruit that ends up being consumed by a human for transmission to occur. With NiV’s incubation period said to stretch as long as 45 days, there would be no quicker way to detect the virus before person-to-person transmission kicks in.

So far, no concrete reports of new infections have surfaced.

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