Nipah virus: Impact, origins, and causes of emergence


Nipah virus is an emerging zoonotic pathogen that causes severe febrile encephalitis resulting in death in 40% to 75% of human cases. Nipah virus is considered a biosafety level-4 pathogen and is listed as a select agent with high risk for public health and security due to its high mortality rate in people and the lack of effective vaccines or therapies. The natural reservoir for Nipah virus and related members of the genus Henipavirus are fruit bats of the genus Pteropus. Nipah virus emerged in Malaysia in 1998 as a porcine neurologic and respiratory disease that spread to humans who had contact with live, infected pigs. Research reviewed in this paper suggests that anthropogenic factors, including agricultural expansion and intensification, were the underlying causes of its emergence. Nipah virus has caused five subsequent outbreaks between 2001 and 2005 in Bangladesh. Here, it appears to have spilled over directly from bats to humans, and person-to-person transmission is evident suggesting a heightened public health risk.

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Correspondence to Jonathan H. Epstein DVM, MPH.

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Epstein, J.H., Field, H.E., Luby, S. et al. Nipah virus: Impact, origins, and causes of emergence. Curr Infect Dis Rep 8, 59–65 (2006).

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  • Nipah Virus
  • Disease Emergence
  • Hendra Virus
  • Diarrhoeal Disease Research
  • Index Farm