What is Nipah virus? What are symptoms of nipah virus? How you can protect from Nipah virus?
Health 09, Sep, 2021
What is the Nipah virus and why is it more deadly than COVID-19? A virus expert explains.Nipah virus, scientific name Nipah henipavirus, is a bat-borne virus that causes Nipah virus infection in humans and other animals, a disease with a high mortality rate. Numerous disease outbreaks caused by Nipah virus have occurred in South and Southeast Asia.
This is one of those viruses we really need to pay attention to, John Lednicky, a research professor at the University of Florida's Environmental and Global Health department, told USA TODAY.
The reemergence of the Nipah virus is compacting a problem in the nation already grappling with the effects of COVID-19, with over 30,000 new COVID cases reported on Monday.
What is the Nipah virus?The Nipah virus was first discovered in Malaysia and Singapore in 1999 after multiple pigs and people became sick, according to the Center for Disease Control and Prevention.
So far, the only recorded outbreaks have occurred in Asia.
It's classified as a zoonotic virus that initially spreads from animals to people. It can also be transmitted through contaminated food and directly between people.
The Nipah virus is not related to COVID-19, but may have the same originating source — bats.
The host of the virus is fruit bats, also known as flying foxes because of their large size.
Lednicky said pigs are highly susceptible to the virus and can come in contact with it through fruit material the bats have been consuming.
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Other domestic animals like horses, goats, sheep, cats and dogs can become infected, according to the CDC.
Unsuspecting humans may also come into contact with contaminated fruit and become infected.
"There's probably an underestimate of people who have been infected with the virus due to people not being properly diagnosed," Lednicky said.
What are the signs and symptoms of Nipah virus?
Symptoms of the Nipahvirus vary from asymptomatic to acute respiratory infection and — at its worst — encephalitis, a swelling of active tissue in the brain that can be fatal, according to the World Health Organization.
Infected people can experience sore throat, fever, headaches and muscle pains. If the infection progresses, dizziness and altered consciousness could be signs of encephalitis.
The start of symptoms ranges from 4 to 14 days after exposure and there are currently no vaccines available to treat the virus.
"There's no good treatment for it," Lednicky said. "They put you in the hospital, but there's really nothing much else they can do for you."
WHO reports that 40% to 75% of Nipah cases are fatal compared to COVID-19 fatality rate of around 2%.
Should people in US be worried About Nipah virus?Lednicky said people in the U.S. don't need to worry much about Nipah virus because it has been isolated to Asia regions where fruit bats live.
But there's always a chance someone can bring the virus into a new area.
"The concern really is how people travel," Lednicky said. "Years ago when travel was more restricted, you didn't see unusual pathogens traveling."
Lednicky hopes that U.S. can learn from the COVID-19 pandemic and take on a more proactive approach versus a reactive one.
"There are going to be more emerging pathogens," he said.
"It seems like history repeats itself because we're unprepared."