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Nipah: what we know about this virus that is 20 times more lethal than COVID-19 and that puts India on alert

A virus that has a mortality rate at least 20 times higher than that of SARS-CoV-2, which caused the pandemic COVID-19has maintained the India since last week.

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Indian authorities have declared an emergency in Kozhikode district in the southern state of Kerala after at least two deaths due to the Nipah virus (NiV) were reported.

The Director General of the Indian Council of Medical Research (ICMR), Dr. Rajiv Bahl, explained during a press conference that this virus has a fatality rate between 40% and 70% of cases.

To understand the severity of this, it is necessary to review the rate that COVID-19 had, which varied between 2% and 3%.

However, the doctor himself explained that Nipah is not as transmissible as the virus that caused the pandemic on the planet in 2020.

The first record of the Nipah virus dates back to 1998, when farmers in Malaysia and Singapore were infected. Its name, in fact, comes from the place where the first case was detected: the Malaysian village of Sungai Nipah.

During the first outbreak, at least 300 people were infected, most of them farmers who had come into contact with pig feces, and more than 100 died.

It belongs to the Henipavirus genus and, like COVID-19, it is a zoonotic virus; that is, it is transmitted mainly from animals to people.”and sometimes also from person to person and through contaminated food“, explains the WHO on its official website.

In the case of Nipah, the main carrier is the fruit bat from the Pteropodidae family, commonly known as the flying fox.

It is carried by fruit bats that land on treetops (…) They can urinate and contaminate the fruit, and when people eat it they contract the virus and become sick.” Joanne Macdonald, associate professor of molecular engineering at the University of the Sunshine Coast, explained to The Guardian.

The WHO considers that regarding the incubation period of the virus (between contagion and the first symptoms) there is a window between 4 and 14 days. However, there are cases in which it took up to 45 days for the first symptoms to be reported.

There are no official reports on Nipah virus infections in Peru.

Flying foxes are the main carriers of Nipah virus.

According to the WHO, human Nipah infection can be asymptomatic, cause acute respiratory illness or fatal encephalitis.

Those infected often experience fever, headaches, body aches, vomiting and sore throat. If the disease worsens, the patient will report dizziness, drowsiness, altered consciousness and neurological signs typical of acute encephalitis.

The most serious cases suffer from encephalitis – an inflammation of the brain – and convulsions that lead the patient to a coma within 24 or 48 hours and, in many cases, death.

The Director General of the Indian Council of Medical Research, Dr. Rajiv Bahl, explained during a press conference that the Nipah virus has a mortality rate of between 40% and 70%.

The Director General of the Indian Council of Medical Research, Dr. Rajiv Bahl, explained during a press conference that the Nipah virus has a mortality rate of between 40% and 70%. (AFP Agency/)

To date, there is no treatment or vaccine for the Nipah virus and medical care is limited to combating symptoms in patients.

Indian health authorities prefer, for now, to spread an awareness campaign, calling on the population to pay special attention to taking care of their hygiene habits and tracking chains of contagion to isolate those possibly infected.

This is the fourth Nipah outbreak reported in Kerala since 2018. In addition to this region, outbreaks of this type have also been reported in Bangladesh and other areas of India.

The WHO warns, however, that countries such as Cambodia, Ghana, the Philippines, Indonesia, Madagascar and Thailand present a high risk of Nipah outbreaks because flying foxes also exist there.

For this reason, the highest global public health entity maintains Nipah as a priority monitoring virus due to its pandemic potential. However, at the same time, it is considered that to date it is “highly unlikely” that this virus triggers a pandemic like the one we are experiencing due to COVID-19.

Source: Elcomercio

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