Nipah virus is a zoonotic virus, which means it can spread between animals and people. The animal host reservoir for Nipah virus is the fruit bat (also called the flying fox), which can spread the disease to people or other animals, such as pigs. Nipah virus infection can cause mild to severe disease, and potentially death.
Outbreaks occur almost annually in parts of Asia, primarily Bangladesh and India.
Currently, there are no licensed treatments available for Nipah virus infection. Treatment is aimed at supportive care, and may include:
- Adequate hydration
- Treatment of symptoms as they occur
Immunotherapeutic treatments (monoclonal antibody therapies) are currently under development and evaluation for the treatment of Nipah virus infections.
What Are Symptoms of Nipah Virus?
Symptoms of Nipah virus infection usually occur 4 to 14 days following exposure to the virus.
Early symptoms of Nipah virus infection may include:
Severe symptoms may follow, such as:
Long-term side effects in survivors of Nipah virus infection may include:
- Persistent convulsions
- Personality changes
Death may occur in up to 75% of cases.
What Causes Nipah Virus?
Nipah virus is transmitted to people from:
- Direct contact with infected animals, such as bats or pigs, or the bodily fluids of these animals, such as blood, urine, or saliva
- Consuming food products contaminated by body fluids of infected animals, such as raw date palm sap or fruit contaminated by an infected bat
- Close contact with a person infected with Nipah virus or their body fluids, such as mucus, phlegm, urine, or blood
How Is Nipah Virus Diagnosed?
Nipah virus infection may be diagnosed during illness or after recovery.
- In the early stages of the illness, polymerase chain reaction (RT-PCR) testing can be performed using throat and nasal swabs, cerebrospinal fluid, urine, and blood
- Later in the illness and after recovery, antibody tests may be performed using an enzyme-linked immunosorbent assay (ELISA)
Testing for Nipah virus infection should be considered for people who have symptoms of Nipah virus infection and who have been in areas where Nipah is more common, such as Bangladesh or India, especially if they have a known exposure to the virus.
How Do You Prevent Nipah Virus?
In areas where Nipah virus outbreaks have occurred (Bangladesh, Malaysia, India, and Singapore), to prevent the spread of the virus:
- Wash hands regularly with soap and water for at least 20 seconds
- Avoid contact with sick bats or pigs
- Avoid areas where bats are known to roost
- Avoid consumption of raw date palm sap
- Avoid consumption of fruits that may be contaminated by bats
- Avoid contact with the body fluids of any person known to be infected Nipah virus