Tedros Adhanom Ghebreyesus (Director-General of the World Health Organization)

Nipah, The Other Contagious Virus On The WHO's Radar Screen

Moderna is already working on a vaccine that uses coronavirus-like technology

Various media have already 'chosen' a successor to COVID-19 and it is none other than the Nipah virus. This pathogen is closely followed by the World Health Organization (WHO) due to its high lethality and the ability to infect humans, although it should be noted that its common host is the bat.

It is not necessary to scare the population since at present there is no risk of this virus causing another new pandemic as has happened with Sars CoV-2. As if that were not enough, the data provided by Newtral expose that the last outbreak of this virus took place back in 2018; in 2019 only a single case was recorded and today no active cases of Nipah have been reported. In addition, Moderna is already working on the development of a vaccine for this virus  that uses a technology similar to that of COVID-19..

When did the Nipah virus emerge?

Although it is a virus that has hardly been discussed in the media, the existence of the Nipah virus dates back to 1998 when the first outbreak was recorded in Malaysia. Since that outbreak, many features of the virus have been investigated. The most worrying aspect of the virus is that it generates a high percentage of deaths for those who become infected with it, within a range between 40% and 75% of those infected.

With no vaccine at present, the WHO assures that the only treatment available right now is intensive care of the infected patient. Carriers of the virus may suffer from acute respiratory syndrome, convulsions, fatigue and even encephalitis, which could lead to death.

In turn, it should be noted that the normal host of the Nipah virus is the megabat.  These animals are found in tropical countries and are numerous in India and Southeast Asia. In addition, their common habitat is areas with a high density of vegetation and fruit trees, but when these areas are exploited, they are forced to look for other areas to develop.

What would happen if the Nipah becomes more contagious?

Moreover,  the Nipah virus can be transmitted through fluids and the consumption of contaminated food. This is one of the reasons why researchers believe that an outbreak of this virus can be more easily controlled than coronavirus outbreaks. But this is not the only feature that points to the potential to be less than that of Sars CoV-2.

As a virus that kills a large number of its human hosts, transmission between human hosts is much lower. In general, the most transmissible viruses are those with milder symptoms and which do not kill the person who has been infected. Also, although there have been several cases in which the Nipah virus has spread to humans, it is clear today that  there have been no mass outbreaks.

Nevertheless, the WHO and a good amount of scientific groups around the world continue to pay close attention to this virus and how it manages to transmit itself in case any mutation should one day occur. According to this article in El País, a Spanish newspaper, if the Nipah were to change and become more contagious, "the epidemic could have a devastating effect on people's lives, public health and global economies".

[This is a translation of the original article "El Nipah, el otro virus contagioso que tiene entre ceja y ceja la OMS" published in espanadiario.net]