Could Nipah Virus Spark The Next Pandemic Outbreak? 5 Things We Know So Far

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As the world grapples with waves and strains of the coronavirus, some latest reports suggest the possible emergence of a deadly variation of the Nipah virus that could result in the next big pandemic outbreak.

Through the years, since the Nipah virus‘ first discovery in 1998 until 2019, there have been periodic cases of infections and deaths resulting from it. Experts have, however, managed to isolate the endemics on all occasions.

Raising concerns surrounding the symptoms of a more potent Nipah disease, placed to be 75 times more fatal than COVID-19, scientists told The Sun that this virus may well be ‘The Big One’ after the ongoing one.

Here are 5 things we know about the deadly Nipah virus so far:

  1. The World Health Organisation (WHO) defines Nipah virus (NiV) as “a zoonotic illness that is transmitted to people from animals.” Commonly circulated among fruit bats, the virus can transmit from human-to-human as well. The transmission of the virus in pigs (and further onto humans) has been noted on previous occasions.
  2. The Nipah infection has largely been restrained among Asian countries. Its first identification came in 1999 during an outbreak of encephalitis and respiratory illness among pig farmers in Malaysia and Singapore. About 300 human cases and over 100 deaths were reported in the Malaysian outbreak. More than a million pigs were euthanised.
  3. Other countries affected over the years have been Bangladesh and India. In India, the first NiV outbreak was observed in 2001 in Siliguri, West Bengal. The most recent case reportedly came in 2019, when a 23-year-old student was detected with the infection in Kochi, Kerala. The spread was successfully controlled by Minister KK Shailaja.
  4. Latest reports, quoting scientists, have brought notice to the possibility of Nipah virus outbreaks in the future. Dr Rebecca Dutch from the University of Kentucky told The Sun, “Nipah is one of the viruses that could absolutely be the cause of a new pandemic. The mortality rate for this virus is between 45 percent and 75 percent depending on the outbreak – so this is much higher than COVID-19.”
  5. WHO recognises that no drug or vaccine targets Nipah virus, and has identified it as a “priority disease.”