Health Officials on Alert About Pathogen With Up to 75% Fatality Rate

Posted by on September 17, 2023 3:04 am

United Kingdom health officials said they’re “closely monitoring” an outbreak of Nipah virus, which reportedly has a fatality rate up to 75%.

The outbreak, which occurred in India, has reportedly killed two individuals in the southern state of Kerala.

“Five other cases have been detected, including a child of one of the victims, with over 800 people being testing,” Daily Mail reports.

Nipah virus is the illness that inspired the 2011 film ‘Contagion’.

Per NPR:

The new virus — eventually called Nipah — is on the World Health Organization’s list of viruses most likely to cause a global pandemic. It’s the virus that inspired the 2011 movie Contagion. And just this past January, governments and philanthropists pledged hundreds of millions of dollars to develop a Nipah vaccine because it poses such a big threat.

Daily Mail reports:

The UK Health Security Agency (UKHSA) told MailOnline it was ‘closely’ monitoring the outbreak.

Authorities have closed down schools and offices and declared nine villages as containment zones over fears of the brain-damaging virus.

Public transport has also been suspended and neighbouring states are testing travellers from Kerala for potential symptoms.

Nipah is spread by fruit bats who can transmit the virus to people via contact with infected bodily fluids like saliva or urine left on fruit.

These people can then go on to infect others by close contact including potential airborne transmission through coughing and sneezing.

Nipah can kill by causing both severe respiratory problems and fatal brain swelling.

Reports from India indicate the containment zones went into a “lockdown-like situation.”

From India Today:

These two deaths occurred at a private hospital in Kozhikode. Four people under treatment are relatives of the second deceased person. Their samples were sent for testing. Two tested positive, including a 9-year-old child and a 24-year-old relative. The 9-year-old child of the deceased is in ventilation at a private hospital.

A high-level meeting was chaired by Kerala Health Minister Veena George to review the situation. Kozhikode has experienced two previous Nipah virus outbreaks, one in 2018 and another in 2021. During the first outbreak in 2018, 23 cases were identified, with 17 people succumbing to this zoonotic virus.

An official from Kerala’s health ministry said that the virus was transmitted to humans through direct contact with the bodily fluids of infected bats, pigs, or other people.

On Wednesday, a lockdown-like situation prevailed in the containment zones after the government issued a fresh set of restrictions to prevent the spread of the virus.

“In areas declared as containment zones, social distancing and the use of masks and sanitisers is mandatory,” the outlet noted.

Although it’s unclear if the Indian outbreak is related, reports surfaced from the United Kingdom of biohazard tents used in Dover.

GB News reports:

The Home Office has confirmed that a biohazard response at Dover harbour on Friday afternoon followed reports of some migrants arriving from France and “being unwell”.

GB News filmed as authorities wore specialist biohazard coveralls at the main migrant processing facility.

A number of blue biohazard tents were also erected near the main gangway where Border Force vessels disembark those migrants they pick up in the Channel.

GB News Kent producer reported that around a dozen personnel wore white coveralls and face masks as they unloaded dozens of people from the Border Force catamarans Ranger and Volunteer.

In 2022, National Institute of Allergy and Infectious Diseases (NIAID) launched an early-stage clinical trial for an experimental mRNA Nipah virus vaccine manufactured by Moderna.

From the NIH:

The National Institute of Allergy and Infectious Diseases (NIAID), part of the National Institutes of Health, has launched an early-stage clinical trial evaluating an investigational vaccine to prevent infection with Nipah virus. The experimental vaccine is manufactured by Moderna, Inc., Cambridge, Massachusetts, and was developed in collaboration with NIAID’s Vaccine Research Center. It is based on a messenger RNA (mRNA) platform—a technology used in several approved COVID-19 vaccines. NIAID is sponsoring the Phase 1 clinical study, which is being conducted at the NIH Clinical Center in Bethesda, Maryland.

Nipah virus infection is a zoonotic disease, meaning that it is spread between animals and people. Fruit bats are the natural host for the virus. The first known Nipah outbreak occurred in 1998 in Malaysia and Singapore and resulted in 265 human cases and 105 deaths, and caused significant economic damage to the swine industry there. Since 1999, outbreaks have occurred annually in Asia, primarily in Bangladesh and India. The virus can cause mild-to-severe disease rapidly progressing from respiratory infection symptoms to encephalitis (brain swelling) leading to coma or death. An estimated 40% to 75% of people infected with Nipah virus die. Although most cases are transmitted via animals, person-to-person transmission can occur. Currently, there is no licensed vaccine or treatment for Nipah virus infection.

“Nipah virus poses a considerable pandemic threat because it mutates relatively easily, causes disease in a wide range of mammals, can transmit from person-to-person, and kills a large percentage of the people it infects,” said NIAID Director Anthony S. Fauci, M.D. “The need for a preventive Nipah virus vaccine is significant.”

NIAID’s Pandemic Preparedness Plan, published earlier this year, established a framework to study viruses of pandemic potential and prioritize research on prototype pathogens, such as Nipah virus. This is the first clinical trial using the prototype pathogen approach since the plan’s publication.

The experimental mRNA-1215 Nipah virus vaccine will be tested in a dose-escalation clinical trial to evaluate its safety, tolerability, and ability to generate an immune response in 40 healthy adults ages 18 to 60 years. Specifically, four groups of 10 participants each will receive two doses of the investigational vaccine via injection in the shoulder muscle four or 12 weeks apart. Group one (10 participants) will receive two 25-microgram (mcg) injections; group two will receive two 50-mcg injections; and group three will receive two 100-mcg injections, each four weeks apart. The vaccine dose for the fourth group of participants will be determined based on an interim analysis of the results from the three previous groups. The fourth group will receive two injections 12 weeks apart. Study participants will be evaluated through clinical observation and blood collection at specified times throughout the study and will be followed by clinical study staff through 52 weeks following their final vaccination.