A different virus classified by the World Health Organisation as having ‘pandemic potential’ is spreading more than usual due to care shortages caused by COVID.
The London Telegraph reports that the Nipah virus, which attacks the brain and has an up to 75% fatality rate, has killed a twelve year old boy who was shunted around five different hospitals because of COVID.
It is believed that the boy came into contact with close to 200 people, with two health workers and the boys mother already in isolation after developing the symptoms, which are similar to those of COVID.
The Nipah virus has been known since 1998, but has been contained, with the worst outbreak occurring twenty years ago in West Bengal when 45 out of 66 people infected with the virus died.
The bat-borne virus was the inspiration for the movie Contagion, and while more deadly than COVID it spreads less efficiently.
Nipah is very bad news. It can have the mortality of Ebola but is a respiratory virus. Fortunately emergent Nipah strains (so far) are less transmissible than many respiratory viruses but the constant threat is why pandemic preparedness is essential.
— Dr. Angela Rasmussen (@angie_rasmussen) September 7, 2021
Health authorities in Kerala where the boy died are urging people to get tested for Nipah, with lockdowns being implemented in the surrounding regions.
“People should continue to wear masks and practice social distancing to stop the Nipah virus from spreading. In hospitals, doctors and nurses can also wear PPE,” said Kerla doctor Arun N Madhavan.
The Telegraph notes that “There are currently no drugs available to treat Nipah, although the WHO has identified the virus as a priority disease for the development of a vaccine.”
In June, The Oxford University team of virologists who developed the COVID AstraZeneca vaccine announced that they had made a “big step forward” in testing the Nipah vaccine.
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