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Beware of Nipah virus, potential next disease pandemic, WHO warns

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Beware of Nipah virus, potential next disease pandemic, WHO warns

75 times more deadly than novel Coronavirus

By Sola Ogundipe

As the second wave of the COVID-19 pandemic sweeps across the world, a brain-swelling viral disease known as Nipah, which is 75 times more deadly than COVID-19, could potentially mutate to become the next global pandemic, scientists have warned.

The fruit bat-borne virus that manifests with severe brain swelling, seizures, and vomiting was first discovered in 1999 in Malaysia after it spread from pigs to humans.

Nipah is one of 260 known viruses with epidemic potential.  Already, the disorder has sparked fears among health experts in view of its high rate of mutation and fatality.

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The World Health Organisation, WHO has already listed the Nipah virus as one of 16 priority pathogens for research due to their epidemic potential to spark an epidemic

Nipah is particularly worrying as it has a high rate of mutation and an incubation period of up to 45 days, meaning a person could spread it long before falling sick.

Worse still, the virus has the ability to jump from one animal to another and there are fears that a strain that is better adapted to human infections could spread rapidly across South East Asia.

With COVID-19 virus mutating and so far killing almost 2.5 million people,  the next pandemic could be far worse. The WHO says the mortality rate of Nipah is 40 to 75 per cent higher than the 1 percent rate for COVID-19.

In view of the foregoing, scientists are worried that the next pandemic could be far worse than the COVID-19 crisis and they are putting the world on notice to be prepared for the inevitable.

The Director of Vaccine Research and Development at the Coalition for Epidemic Preparedness Innovations, CEPI, Dr Melanie Saville, said the world needs to be prepared for the next “big one”.

Saville said although there are no current Nipah outbreaks in the world, it is ‘extremely likely’ another will happen in the future.

“Nipah is one of the viruses that could absolutely be the cause of a new pandemic. Several things about Nipah are very concerning.

“Most crucially we shouldn’t just be looking at Nipah. We know that a future pandemic is inevitable, and there are many other emerging infectious diseases that are recognised as having epidemic potential,” Saville warned.

She said known diseases, such as influenza, could turn into pandemics, as well as unidentified viruses, known as ‘Disease X’.

Scientists have long expressed concerns over the threat of zoonotic diseases (infections jumping from animals to humans) and the danger of them causing a pandemic every five years.

Human interaction with nature is a prime driver of Nipah and other new zoonotic diseases.

Pigs caught the disease after eating infected mangoes before passing the virus on to pig farmers and other humans.

Vanguard News Nigeria

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