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Nipah virus alert: Expert admits panic with 'no rapid testing, good treatments or vaccine'

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Doctor Emily Gurley of Johns Hopkins Bloomberg School of Public Health described the importance of limiting the Nipah virus’s ability to transmit from human to human, as “every Nipah infection in a person is another opportunity for the virus to adapt to us and become more transmissible”. She outlined the current limitations in science for combating the pathogen that has a fatality rate of up to 75 percent. Doctor Gurley said: “It’s one of the most fatal pathogens we know about, and there are currently no rapid tests, good treatments, or vaccines available.

“That makes it a disease that we should be worried about.

“Currently, it’s just not very infectious.

“But, if it became more transmissible, that would be a very worrisome development.”

There are chances the Nipah will mutate to become more transmissible.

Doctor Gurley said: “All viruses mutate over time, and Nipah is no exception.

“Some genetic changes to Nipah could make it more highly transmissible between people.

“There could be variants that already exist in bats that would be more transmissible between people, we don’t understand that diversity well.

“However, every Nipah infection in a person is another opportunity for the virus to adapt to us and become more transmissible.”

READ MORE: It could happen AGAIN: Scientists warn bat virus ‘jumping to humans’

Speaking to Express.co.uk Doctor John Klena and Doctor Shannon Whitmer from the US Centre for Disease Control in Atlanta said: “Rather than government investment in one or a handful of high-priority pathogens, investment in better surveillance and diagnostic testing systems would provide the necessary fluidity to detect and respond to any potential emerging or re-emerging pathogen.

“It is critical to any such system’s success right from the basic design to integrate surveillance strategies with appropriate diagnostic methodologies and to provide the necessary reagents, equipment and workforce for its implementation.

“Without the ability to rapidly recognize at-risk individuals and provide the appropriate care, there is an enormous risk of disease spread.

“In the absence of broad diagnostic testing platforms, incorporating traditional culture-based techniques as well as serology, nucleic acid-based testing platforms and Next Generation Sequencing capacities, pathogens will be undetected.”

Many factors increase the risk of zoonotic viruses such as COVID-19 and Nipah virus jumping from their animal reservoirs to humans.

Major driving factors that increase the risks to humanity of new pathogens are climate change, deforestation, and increased use of animal protein consumption for human consumption.

Doctor Klena and Doctor Whitmer said: “It’s unlikely that one factor alone is responsible for the emergence of new pathogens, it takes a number of events to occur before any given pathogen emerges.

“Changes that increase human exposure to wildlife seems to drive zoonotic spillover of animal or novel viruses into the human population.”

According to the US Centre for Disease Control in Atlanta, the current risk of the Nipah virus becoming a pandemic is “low”.

Doctor John Klena and Doctor Shannon Whitmer said: “Since its discovery 27 years ago in 1994 in Malaysia, there have been several known outbreaks of Nipah in Asia, with the more recent cases in Bangladesh and India.

“Every year, a few cases of Nipah are detected in Bangladesh, and occasionally these are associated with household clusters.

“The reservoir of the virus, Pteropus fruit bats, have a wide distribution in Asia, but there are not human cases present in every country visited by these bats.

“Based on these observations, the risk of pandemic spread of Nipah virus is low.”



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