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Nipah Virus Infection

Nipah Virus Infection

23 May 2018

Nipah virus infection is an emerging zoonotic disease. Fruit bats are the natural host for the virus. It was first identified in 1998-99 during outbreaks among pig farmers and people with close contact with pigs in Malaysia and Singapore. It can affect a wide range of animals including pigs. In the past two decades, multiple outbreaks of human Nipah virus infection have occurred in Bangladesh and India.

Mode of transmission

Nipah virus infection is mainly transmitted through direct contact with sick animals via their contaminated respiratory droplets, nasal secretions and tissues. It can also be transmitted via consuming food contaminated with urine, droppings or saliva from infected bats, usually fruits or fruit products including raw date palm sap.

Human to human transmission is also possible through close contact with contaminated secretions and excretions of infected persons.

Clinical features

Infected person can be asymptomatic. Early symptoms include flu-like symptoms like fever, headache, vomiting, sore throat and muscle ache. Other symptoms include dizziness, drowsiness and decrease in consciousness. Severe cases may develop complications like pneumonia, seizure, encephalitis, coma and even death. The case fatality rate is around 40% to 75%.

Incubation period

Symptoms usually start to develop around 4-14 days after exposure, but it can be as long as 45 days.


Currently, there is no specific treatment and drugs for Nipah virus infection.


There is no vaccine available.

The public should adopt the following measures to reduce the risk of infection when travelling to places affected by Nipah virus:

  • Avoid contact with farm animals or wild animals, especially bats and pigs.
  • Observe good personal hygiene; wash hands frequently with liquid soap and water, especially after contact with animals or their droppings/secretions, and taking caring of or visiting sick people.
  • Observe good food hygiene; fruits should be thoroughly washed and peeled before consumption. Avoid drinking raw date palm sap.

For people who have to handle animals or their tissues, they need to wear proper protective clothing.