What is the Nipah virus, the deadly human disease?

Verified on 11/11/2023 by Alexane Flament, Editor
Qu'est-ce que le virus Nipah, cette maladie mortelle pour l'homme ?

In India, health authorities are trying to bring under control the epidemic of Nipah, a rare virus that has been on the increase in recent years. This potentially fatal virus is feared to be at the origin of a new global epidemic.

The first Nipah epidemic was recorded in 1998. Although it first appeared on pig farms in a small village in Malaysia, it now seems to be rampant in India, particularly in the state of Kerala, where it has recently killed two people and infected four others.

Hundreds of positive tests have also been recorded in recent weeks. This situation has prompted the Indian authorities to take restrictive measures to contain the epidemic.

« We shouldn’t be afraid, but we have to face this situation with caution, » Kerala Chief Minister Pinarayi Vijayan told CNN, adding that at least 7 villages and schools had been closed as a result, considered to be « contaminated areas ».

A rare virus with a high mortality rate

Transmitted by food contaminated with the urine or saliva of fruit-eating bats – but also directly between humans – this rare virus causes violent fever, vomiting, respiratory problems and even inflammation of the brain leading to coma .

It also has a high mortality rate: 40-75% of victims die after contracting it.

This is borne out by the latest wave of epidemics in 2018, which killed no fewer than 17 people in the Kerala region where it is very active. These alarming figures can also be explained by theabsence, to date, of a vaccine or treatment to combat the disease.

WHO considers Nipah virus as dangerous as Covid-19 and Ebola

Bangladesh and India are the hardest-hit countries, with over 100 and 50 deaths respectively since the first case was recorded in 2001.

Considered a pathogen as dangerous as Ebola and Covid-19 by the WHO, the Nipah virus is yet another example of what is known as a zoonosis, i.e. a disease transmissible from animals to humans.

This type of disease has multiplied massively over the last 30 years, encouraged in particular by the development of international travel.