Although the Nipah virus infection has a high fatality rate, today it does not present a risk of generating a pandemic such as that of Covid.

A fruit bat, the main host of the Nipah virus.

Although the coronavirus pandemic has been one of the most exceptional events in recent decades worldwide, many experts have warned about the possibility of a similar health situation recurring. The pressure that humans are exerting on natural habitats increases the risk that some diseases that inhabit certain animals mutate Y the salt to the human species.

Although this risk is real and many scientific institutions take it into account, many media already They have founda concrete successor to Covid-19: the Nipah virus. It is a virus that the World Health Organization (WHO) does not want to lose sight of due to its lethality and the ability it has shown to infect humans despite its main host being the bat.

However, at this time there is no risk situation that this virus produces a pandemic situation like the one generated by the virus Sars CoV-2. In fact, as Newtral points out in this article, the last outbreak of this disease took place in 2018, in 2019 there was only one case and currently there are no active cases. In addition, the Moderna pharmaceutical company is working on a vaccine project that uses a technology similar to that of the coronavirus.

An ‘old’ acquaintance

We may never have heard of the Nipah virus, but there is news of him since 1998, when an outbreak occurred in Malaysia. Since that episode, many of the characteristics of this virus have been discovered. The most alarming of them is that it produces a high percentage of deaths among those who are infected. Depending on the outbreak, a fatality of between 40% and 75% has been observed.

Still waiting for the vaccine and effective antiviral drugs, the WHO explains on its website that the only treatment today is intensive care of the sick patient. People who carry the virus can develop acute respiratory syndrome, seizures, fatigue, and even encephalitis that can lead to coma or death. There are also cases of asymptomatic patients.

Although outbreaks caused by pigs have been observed, the typical host for Nipah virus is the fruit bat, also called the flying fox. These animals live in tropical countries and are abundant in the area of ​​India and Southeast Asia. Their natural habitat is areas with high density of vegetation and fruit trees, but the exploitation of these areas forces them to seek other regions to prosper.

The bat in Asia

In this BBC article the author explains that many populations of fruit bats coexist with humans in public settings like food markets. This situation worries scientists because it increases the risk that some fluid from an infected animal will contaminate some food. If the virus mutates and acquires the ability to infect humans, it can enter the body through food.

Another practice of concern in Southeast Asian countries is the collection of guano, bat droppings that are a very popular natural fertilizer in Thailand and Cambodia. According to the BBC, many of the people who engage in this activity are not aware that it can generate a risky situation. Eliminating bats is not a solution because they play an important role in the pollination of plants and in controlling the population of mosquitoes that can transmit malaria.

The possibility of a pandemic

The Nipah virus is transmitted through contact with fluids and the consumption of contaminated food. This is one of the reasons why experts think that an outbreak of this disease can be more easily controlled than coronavirus outbreaks – a virus that is respiratory and can be transmitted through the air. But it is not the only aspect that seems to indicate that its pandemic potential may be less than that of the Sars CoV-2.

As it is a virus that ends the life of a large part of its human hosts, transmission between them is less. The most prevalent viruses are usually those that have milder symptoms and do not kill the infected person. What’s more, even ifthere have been episodes in which the virus has spread to humans, massive outbreaks have never occurred.

Anyway, both the WHO and many international scientific groups closely monitor this virus and the way in which it is transmitted in case of some kind of change due to a mutation. According to this article by The country, if its characteristics changed and it became more contagious, “the epidemic could have a devastating effect on people’s lives, public health and global economies.”