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Nipah Virus

  • The virus can be transmitted to humans from animals (such as bats or pigs). The disease spreads through fruit bats or ‘flying foxes,’ of the genus Pteropus, who are natural reservoir hosts of the Nipah and Hendra viruses.
  • Nipah virus infection is an emerging zoonotic disease of public health importance in the WHO South East Asia region with a high case fatality rate estimated to range between 40 and 75 per cent.
  • It was first recognised in 1998-99 during an outbreak among pig farmers in Malaysia and Singapore.
  • Human-to-human transmission of this virus has also been reported among family and care givers of infected patients.

How does Nipah spread or get transmitted?

  • The virus is present in bat urine and potentially, bat faeces, saliva and birthing fluids.
  • Furthermore, transmission between farms may be due to fomites – or carrying the virus on clothing, equipment, boots, and vehicles.

About Fruit Bat

Fruit bat

Fruit bats, as opposed to insectivorous bats, survive largely on a diet of fruit, which they locate with their sense of smell (insectivorous bats locate their prey through echolocation, i.e locating the source of the echoes of their own sound).

  • Fruit bats belong to the Pteropodidae family; those in the Pteropus genus within this family are natural hosts for the Nipah virus.
  • Fruit bats are widely found in South and Southeast Asia and are also known as flying foxes.

Nipah virus and Fruit bat connection

  • The virus survives in the bat’s body without causing disease, allowing it to jump to susceptible mammals like humans or pigs when bats come in contact with them.
  • The National Institute of Virology had found that the virus was first transmitted from fruit bats identified as Pteropus spp.
  • In Bangladeshi outbreaks, researchers found antibodies to Nipah in the Indian flying fox.

Why are so many diseases linked to bats?

All bats can carry viruses, some of them deadly like:

  • Severe Acute Respiratory Syndrome (SARS) antibodies were found in insectivorous bats.
  • Ebola antibodies were found in Hammer-headed fruit bat.
  • Indian Flying Fox, hosts over 50 viruses

With around 1,200 species, bats comprise 20% of the earth’s mammalian diversity.

Long periods of flying raises the temperatures of bats, boosting their immune responses and helps them survive the microbes’ pathogenic effects.

February 2024