Scientists have warned of a brain-swelling disease caused by the Nipah virus, 75 times deadlier than coronavirus, to be the next pandemic.

Scientists have warned of a brain-swelling disease caused by the Nipah virus, estimated to be 75 times deadlier than coronavirus, which could be the next pandemic.

The Nipah virus, carried by the fruit bat, has been noted by scientists as a potentially serious concern. Dr. Melanie Saville, vaccine research and development director at the Coalition for Epidemic Preparedness Innovations (CEPI), told UK news outlet The Sun to prepare for the next “big one.”

It follows their previous report on the increased risks of mankind facing outbreaks most likely of zoonotic causes – diseases that jump from animals to humans. It noted the clash between mankind and nature, as urbanization drives natural animal habitats back. The same scenario was found with the first recorded cases of the Nipah virus that infected pig farmers in Malaysia.

About the Nipah Virus

According to the World Health Organization, the Nipah virus (NiV) is a zoonotic virus that could be transmitted through contaminated food or directly between humans. For people infected with the virus, resulting illnesses range from asymptomatic (subclinical) infection to acute respiratory illness and even fatal cases of encephalitis or the brain’s inflammation.

The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) also cited many symptoms, including fever, vomiting, headache, disorientation, seizures, and even coma. It also noted that symptoms generally appear from four to fourteen days after exposure to the virus.

The Nipah virus was first recorded in 1999 in Malaysia; no other outbreaks have been recorded in the Southeast Asian nation since. It was also reported in Bangladesh, starting in 2001. WHO reports that almost every year, the country has experienced outbreaks of the virus.

The international health organization also cited Cambodia, Ghana, the Philippines, Indonesia, Madagascar, and Thailand as potentially at risk of the infection due to discovering the virus’s natural reservoir, primarily the Pteropus bat species.

Previous outbreaks recorded in parts of Asia cause concern since its death rates vary from 40 to 75 percent. In contrast, the fatality rate for COVID-19, as reported by The Sun from the Imperial College, is only about one percent – making a Nipah virus outbreak potentially more dangerous.

Not the Only Epidemic Threat

While the Nipah virus is potentially more threatening than COVID, it is not the only one – there are 260 of them, all with epidemic potential. Dr. Rebecca Dutch, Molecular and Cellular Biochemistry department chair at the University of Kentucky, adds that while there is no current global outbreak of the disease, it happens periodically. We can only expect more.

“Nipah is one of the viruses that could absolutely be the cause of a new pandemic. Several things about Nipah are very concerning,” Dr. Dutch told The Sun. She adds that many other viruses in the same family transmit well among humans, raising the possibility that a more contagious variant of Nipah could exist in the future.

Dr. Saville additionally warns: “Most crucially we shouldn’t just be looking at Nipah,” noting how other emerging infectious diseases have been recognized as having pandemic potentials, including the unidentified pathogens currently tagged as “Disease X.”

Originally published at The Science Times