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ED: Don’t ignore the threat of Nipah

  • Published at 12:40 am November 8th, 2020
nipah virus
Photo: BIGSTOCK

The time is now to prepare and start the fight against what could become an epidemic

The year 2020 has been difficult on multiple fronts -- the Covid-19 pandemic has devastated lives and wreaked havoc on economies. However, despite its incessant presence, it is equally vital to remain wary of other potential threats that may emerge.

To that end, with researchers warning about the Nipah virus (NiV) and how it could become yet another epidemic in Bangladesh, India, and other Asian countries, this warning must be heeded with the seriousness it warrants.

The virus, which is a distant relative of measles, has no vaccine and no effective medical counter-measures to tackle it, and past outbreaks in Bangladesh have reportedly killed around 70% of the people it infected -- a staggering mortality rate.

Outbreaks are often linked to consumption of raw date palm sap and other fruit products that have been contaminated, and through contact with intermediate hosts such as domesticated animals. However, in the recent past, it appears that it may contain genetic strains or variants that can also be easily spread from person to person.

This is an extremely worrying development, and with the primary culprit for the disease appearing to be fruit bats in the region, it goes without saying that failure to be pro-active in addressing this disease could prove to be catastrophic.

What is required is for the authorities concerned to nip this issue in the bud before things get out of hand. This could be by identifying ways to stop the contamination of palm sap and other fruit products, or ensuring that these products are completely safe before consumption, to finally start working on possible medical interventions and vaccines.

The time is now to prepare and start the fight against what could become an epidemic. After all, prevention is always the best option.