This Rare, Infectious Disease Has Killed 14 People So Far
Here's what you need to know about this outbreak.
The Nipah virus, a rare and infectious disease, has killed 14 people in a recent outbreak in southern India.
There is no known cure for the virus, which is one of the deadliest infections in the world, and it is assumed that it spreads by fruit bats and other animals. The death rate for people who contract the disease ranges from 40% to 75%.
This outbreak was reported on May 19, in the Kozhikode district of Kerala, India, according to the World Health Organization (WHO).
There have been 16 confirmed cases of Nipah, with another 12 suspected cases in the Kozhikode and Mallapuram districts, as of May 28.
Nipah virus was first found in humans in 1999 in Malaysia due to an outbreak among pig farmers. This outbreak infected almost 300 humans and killed 100 people, according to the US Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.
"The virus coevolved with bats over millions of years, so it doesn't cause the bats any problems, but the issue is that other mammals can be infected, like pigs or dogs or horses," Dr. Stephen Luby, an epidemiologist and Nipah expert at Stanford University, told BuzzFeed News.
The virus generally spreads through saliva and respiratory secretions of infected bats.
It can spread to humans through infected fruit and animals, or due to close contact with infected people.
"We think that the primary pathway of human-to-human transmission is exposure to respiratory secretions, so family members or other people caring for those sick with Nipah are most likely to get infected," Luby told BuzzFeed News.
Luckily, the virus is not airborne, so it does not spread easily between people. Only around one in 10 people will pass the virus on to someone, according to Luby.
But that might not always be the case.
"Internationally, it is important to be able to work with the virus and be prepared because the virus is changing, and similarly to influenza it is quite possible it can … obtain the ability to readily transmit from humans to humans," Hana Weingartl, head of the special pathogens unit at the Canadian Food Inspection Agency's National Centre for Foreign Animal Disease, told CBC.
Symptoms of the Nipah virus can include fever, chills, muscle aches, and pains, and it can cause encephalitis, which is brain inflammation. Those infected can have seizures and intense inflammation, and it can even lead to comas.
While this disease remains uncommon, it is on the WHO's Blueprint list of priority diseases, which also includes Ebola and Zika.
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