High School High School Society and the World Recent Breakthroughs

Nipah Virus Contained?

The Nipah virus has recently made a resurgence in regions of southern India, and despite calls that the virus has been successfully contained, health officials maintain caution in preventing future outbreaks.

Recently, a resurfaced and fatal pathogen has swept across districts in Kerala, India, with mortality rates for those infected reaching 70%, a result of poor access to healthcare and the lack of a remedy for the disease.

This disease is known as the Nipah virus, and made its first recorded appearance amongst humans in the village Kampung Sungai Nipah in Malaysia in the years 1998 and 1999 (1). The disease is believed to have first been transmitted through pig hosts on this occasion, however, there were no recorded hosts in the following outbreaks.

Greater short-nosed fruit bat (Cynopterus sphinx)
Greater short-nosed fruit bat (Cynopterus sphinx) Contemporary host of the Nipah pathogen. Image from Wikipedia Commons.

The contemporary outbreaks of the virus are believed to be rooted in the transmittance of Nipah through infected fruit bats’ contamination of products like date palm sap. Another possible source for the contraction of the Nipah virus is the consumption of cooked meats infected with the pathogen.

The resurgent cases recorded throughout the last five to six weeks have featured a minimum of 17 fatalities resulting from a Nipah infection. The cases have spread from the, “northern district of Kozhikode last month and spread to the neighbouring Malappuram district in Kerala.” (2).

The symptoms of the virus are often quickly noticeable, with seizures, high fevers, headaches, and respiratory issues all comprising the list of the effects of an infection of the Nipah pathogen. Despite Kerala’s Health Minister’s comment to state that the virus has been contained in the region, and that the final two confirmed cases have been resolved, public health agencies in countries which act as popular destinations for travellers from the Kerala region, including the United Kingdom, maintain that the governments and organizations must remain alert and wary of possible outbreaks in new locations.

Chart depicting areas with a comparatively higher risk for the diffusion of the Nipah virus. Image from EcoHealth Alliance.

Just behind India, the United Arab Emirates was ranked the second most probable place for the diffusion of the Nipah virus according to flight data analyzed by EcoHealth Alliance (3). In order to develop vaccinations for the deadly virus, “Coalition for Epidemic Preparedness and Innovations granted a $25m grant to two US-based companies, Profectus BioSciences and Emergent BioSolutions.” (4).

Individuals within regions marked as viable locations for the spread of the Nipah virus are advised to follow standard precautions including avoiding contact with bats, pigs, and raw food products which may be susceptible to contamination.

References and Footnotes

  1. “Nipah Virus Infection.” World Health Organization, World Health Organization, 29 May 2018, www.who.int/csr/disease/nipah/en/.
  2. Russell, Rachel. “Nipah Virus Update: Are People Recovering? Has Nipah Virus Been Contained?” Express.co.uk, Express.co.uk, 11 June 2018, www.express.co.uk/news/world/972846/nipah-virus-update-are-people-recovering-has-it-been-contained.
  3. “Monitoring the Deadly Nipah Virus.” EcoHealth Alliance, www.ecohealthalliance.org/program/monitoring-the-deadly-nipah-virus.
  4. Gulland, Anne. “Nipah Outbreak.” The Telegraph, Telegraph Media Group, 12 June 2018, www.telegraph.co.uk/news/2018/06/12/nipah-virus-control-india-britain-world-must-alert-signs-infected/.
  5. Cover image found on Reuters/PA Images


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