The World Health Organization classifies another virus called Nipah virus - a virus of concern for future epidemics.
The deadly Nipah virus was already reported in 2018 but is currently making news again when it struck for the third time when a twelve-year-old boy died from the virus on September 5 in Kozhikode district, Kerala, India. The boy succumbed to a high fever and showed symptoms of encephalitis.
WHO emphasizes that Nipah remains a concern not just in India but the entire globe. According to Dr. Stephen Luby, a professor of infectious disease at Stanford University, the virus spills over from its animal reservoir into humans. And once humans are infected, it can transmit from person to person.
Is it Highly Transmissible and Deadly?
There is a superspreader that infects many people, but the average transmission rate is less than one person per infection. Thus it is not as transmissible as the other viruses, but it has a 70% fatality rate. And this could be the worst pandemic that humanity has ever faced.
In 2018, when the first Nipah outbreak happened in Kerala, only two people survived out of the nineteen infected people. Luckily in 2019, only one person was infected and was readily isolated, containing the virus without any transmission, and the patient survived.
Unlike COVID-19, a person is most infectious before the symptoms set in, with Nipah, the infected person starts spreading the virus as soon as the symptoms set in.
The Origin of the Virus
Nipah virus could have possibly contracted from fruit bats into people, says Dr. Luby. Bats are attracted mainly to raw date palm sap, which may cause contamination. When people consume contaminated raw date palm sap, they become at risk of contracting the Nipah virus. And the drink could be the “likely source” of outbreaks.
Meanwhile, in the two previous strains of Nipah that originated from Malaysia and Bangladesh in 1999, it was believed that the virus came from pigs and fruits as the intermediary hosts. Possibly people get the virus from the food or fruit they ate, which is possibly contaminated with bat saliva or excreta, says Dr. Anish, associate professor of community medicine at the Government Medical College in Thiruvananthapuram.
In the recent case of the boy, it was speculated that the boy could have possibly contracted Nipah from eating rambutan. Still, it was only pure speculation and without evidence presented, according to experts.