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Infectious Diseases

Updated 29 May 2018

What is the deadly Nipah virus?

Hosted by fruit bats, the Nipah virus can kill between 40 to 100% of those affected.

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The Nipah virus outbreak in southern India this week has claimed 12 lives to date.

According to the World Health Organization the virus is “a newly emerging zoonosis that causes severe disease in both animals and humans. The natural host of the virus are fruit bats of the pteropodidae family, pteropus genus.”

It can kill between 40 to 100% of those affected. The virus emerged in Malaysia in 1998 as a porcine neurologic and respiratory disease that spread to humans who had contact with live, infected pigs.

Nipah virus has caused five subsequent outbreaks between 2001 and 2005 in Bangladesh. 

Symptoms of the virus include:

  • Fever
  • Headaches
  • Drowsiness
  • Respiratory problems
  • Disorientation
  • Mental confusion
  • Slipping into coma within 24-48 hours

There is no definitive treatment apart from supportive care and doctors are racing to create a vaccine.