Nipah Virus - We Are In Danger Of A More Serious Pandemic Than The Coronavirus?!
Recent months have been marked by the coronavirus that has turned our lives upside down. As if that were not enough, another threat appeared on the horizon, namely the Nipah virus, which is circulating around Asia and Australia, causing further outbreaks of infections. Scientists have noticed it for a reason, as it is much more dangerous compared to Covid-19. It causes acute encephalitis and up to 75% of cases of the disease end in patients losing their lives. What exactly do we know about it at the moment? Where did it come from and what are the symptoms of infection? Can it spread all over the world? Make sure to read until the end to find out all about this news virus that could possibly be on the rise!
What is Zoonoses?
Perhaps some of you are familiar with the concept of zoonoses, but much more often the term zoonotic is used instead. As the name implies, it can spread from mammals, birds, reptiles, or insects to humans. Its example is, for example, Ebola from monkeys, the West Nile virus transmitted by mosquitoes, and rabies, mainly from dogs. Covid-19 has recently been added to this list and unfortunately has also become the most infectious disease of this type. To date, it has infected 134 million people and contributed to the departure of 2.9 million from this world.
These Will Be More Frequent?!
Scientists have no doubts that bats were its carriers. From them, the virus spread to other animals, which then infected humans. Already a few months ago, it was warned that in the future we would be infected with animals much more often, and zoonoses would start to cause new epidemics. Among the reasons were the growing population density and the fact that animals, including wild ones, now live in our close neighborhood. Unfortunately, this scenario has already become a fact, as evidenced by reports from a few months ago.
Why Only Now?!
Information about the Nipah virus, which carries a real threat, has appeared. In our part of the world, probably not many people have heard of it, but it is worth noting that it is not something new. It was first recognized in 1999 when an epidemic broke out in Malaysia. From then until today, he has been returning systematically. Outbreaks of infections have occurred in various countries in Asia, as well as in northern Australia and India. So why has it only now attracted the attention of scientists and caused considerable anxiety? There are many reasons, as you will find out in a moment. But at the very beginning, it is worth mentioning that the coronavirus contributed to this. After all, its early outbreak also broke out in the Far East. And as it had rapidly spread throughout the world from there, fears arose that the Nipah virus might be similar.
Where It Started?!
Moreover, both viruses also have in common that their carriers are ... bats. When massive fires broke out 21 years ago in Malaysia due to drought, the natural habitats of these mammals were destroyed. In search of food, they moved to fruit trees that grew near pig farms. As a result, the virus spread from bats to pigs and from there to farmers. At that time, several hundred cases of acute encephalitis in humans were recorded. Although initially thought to be a Japanese variant of the disease, further studies revealed the emergence of an entirely new pathogen. It was then that Nipah was first identified and was named after the village of Sungai Nipah on the Malaysian Peninsula, where the first cases of the disease occurred.
It has been found to belong to a family of viruses that also includes those that cause measles and mumps. Nipah, as we just mentioned, contributes to encephalitis. Those who are infected at the outset develop flu-like symptoms. There is a high fever, cough, headache, sore throat, and muscle aches. Symptoms may last up to 14 days. They are accompanied by fatigue, drowsiness, and vomiting, and with time also disturbed consciousness or problems with orientation. This, in turn, can lead to long-term neurological problems, including personality changes.
Why It's Dangerous.
However, a much greater risk is brain swelling and severe seizures, which in many cases go into a coma within 48 hours. And this one ultimately leads to death. It has been found that mortality in the case of virus infection is up to 75%. This is a lot and unfortunately, there are many more reasons why we should be afraid. The Nipah virus is also of great concern during the very long incubation period. It may take up to 45 days for the first symptoms of the disease to appear. This means that an infected person, unaware that they are spreading germs, can pass them on to others for a long time. The first symptoms of the disease, which do not indicate Nipah encephalitis, but are more like the flu, can also be confusing, as we have just talked about.
Not So Bad?
It follows that primary infection occurs through contact with diseased animals, but that the virus can subsequently be passed from person to person. Thus, the members of the patient's family, as well as medical personnel, are at the greatest risk. Transmission of the pathogen, however, requires very close contact with the infected. Nevertheless, it is comforting in this context that current Nipah strains do not spread via droplets, which is the case with Covid-19. Conversely, eating contaminated food can be a serious source of the plague. It has been reported that human infections were caused by eating fruit or fruit products that were contaminated with the secretions of bats carrying germs.
Unfortunately, where a dangerous virus has already appeared, it is common that marketplaces operate daily under trees, which are fed by thousands of fruit bats. The roofs of the stalls are covered with their droppings, and virologists are already sounding the alarm and saying it is a huge threat that could cause another pandemic over time. Besides, bats in Bangladesh, India, Cambodia, or Thailand are also present in places of worship, schools, and tourist attractions. Although today, due to the pandemic, the movement of travelers has decreased considerably, while it was absent, millions of tourists traveled there every year, which also created millions of opportunities for the virus to be passed from animals to humans.
Nipah virus outbreaks that appeared in Bangladesh or India were found to be likely caused by drinking raw date juice contaminated with secretions from infected bats. In Bangladesh alone, around 200 cases of the disease have been detected, of which 150 have been fatal. The juice is also a very popular food product in Cambodia, although the use of bat excrement, or guano, as fertilizer in farmland poses a much greater risk there.
Unaware Of The Danger!
The local community is unaware of this threat. There is a total lack of knowledge about it. Research conducted by virologists clearly stated that 60% of people living in these areas are unaware that bats can transmit any diseases. And it's worth noting that they carry not only Covid or Nipah but also Ebola or Sars. Unfortunately, it is very difficult to avoid contact with them, due to droughts and fires, their natural habitats are destroyed, and they are also destroyed by deforestation, which is why they are massively moving to households and cities.
Bats Are Useful!
Even if there were ideas to reduce their population, it could only make things worse. These animals play an extremely important ecological role - they pollinate plants, prevent the excessive multiplication of insects, and eat mosquitoes that carry malaria, and they perversely affect the fight against diseases in humans.
Research Is Underway!
But most of all they also deliver them. So does this mean that it is only a matter of time before another pandemic, this time with the Nipah virus? Experts from the World Health Organization have concluded that it has pandemic potential. Moreover, the virus was included in the list of pathogens that pose the greatest threat to public health today. The danger it brings has also been noticed by the governments of the largest countries. Research is already underway around the world, and few laboratories can grow, develop and store it.
As early as 2009, the Predict Program was established in the United States to provide early warning of a pandemic. Although it was held back by the Donald Trump administration, new president Joe Biden has promised to restore it. There are also plans to create a new initiative called the Thai Virome Project to conduct research on bats and other wild animals. This will help us better understand the diseases they are transmitting.
Education Is Key.
At this point, thankfully, the Nipah virus has not spread on a large scale, it is still very rare and is reported to be around 600 cases worldwide. Scientists are also making every effort to ensure that this situation does not change, but it is worth noting that there is still no cure for it. Most importantly, the Covid -19 pandemic should teach everyone how to prevent future such phenomena. For this to happen, further research and analysis of emerging pathogens are necessary. Train scientists so that they can quickly identify new viruses. Education in this regard is the only way will we avoid another world tragedy.
And have you heard about the Nipah virus? Do you think that we will face another pandemic someday, or do you think that this scenario will not happen again? Has this one taught you anything?