Fruit Bats Spread Rare Brain Damaging Virus

Seventeen people have died in the Indian state Kerala from the Nipah virus (NiV), a disease that causes acute respiratory syndrome and fatal encephalitis (swelling of the brain). There is no vaccine for Nipah virus.

It is spread primarily by fruit bats, and is transmitted to humans “through secretions from the bat to the fruit it feeds on or touches.” According to the CDC, transmission to humans can also occur “after direct contact with infected bats, infected pigs, or from other NiV infected people.” Person to person transmission is commonly seen among family and caregivers of someone infected. Papers report that a nurse who was treating victims recently died of the disease herself.

Fruits and vegetables imported from the state of Kerala have been banned and the UAE Ministry of Health and Prevention has also issued a travel warning. State Health Minister KK Shailaja says that although it seems the first wave of the outbreak may be over, people should prepare for a second wave:

“The presence of Nipah virus can be confirmed only when the affected people show symptoms. So it is very essential for the affected people to be alert till their incubation period is over…The government has made elaborate arrangements to check the spread of the disease and the people who closely engaged with the Nipah infected people should avoid public gatherings and meeting till the end of the incubation period.”

Ebola is Back

Actually it never left. Ebola is endemic in the Democratic Republic of Congo. The government has declared an outbreak after 17 people in the town of Bikoro are suspected of dying of the gruesome disease. The WHO statement says:

All cases were reported from iIkoko Iponge health facility located about 30 kilometres from Bikoro. Health facilities in Bikoro have very limited functionality, and rely on international organizations to provide supplies that frequently stock out…We know that addressing this outbreak will require a comprehensive and coordinated response. WHO will work closely with health authorities and partners to support the national response.

According to BBC News, “this is the ninth time an Ebola outbreak has been recorded in the DR Congo. The virus was first discovered there in 1976 (when the country was known as Zaire) and is named after the Ebola river.”

Ebola is thought to be transmitted to humans via contact with infected animals such as the fruit bat, or eating infected bushmeat. However, it is worth noting that scientists aren’t exactly sure how Ebola is spread, at least initially, so let that thought fester. Once a person is infected, the virus can be spread through blood or body fluids or objects contaminated with body fluids.

The biggest outbreak of Ebola occurred in West Africa from roughly 2014 to 2016 and killed over 11,000 people. According to the CDC, “Many of these survivors suffer from persistent medical conditions after recovery from Ebola, including joint pain, eye problems, headaches, and other chronic health issues.”

 

A Way to Predict Ebola Outbreaks?

Researchers have identified a possible link between deforestation and the emergence of Ebola outbreaks. There is evidence that Ebola outbreaks are likely to occur within 2 years of forest loss.

This new research also suggests that preventing the loss of forests could reduce the likelihood of future outbreaks. “We have accumulated knowledge that removing forests causes problems not just to the functioning of the climate and ecosystems but also to humans, then we must see it as a threat to human livelihoods, health, security and everything else,” said Fa – a Senior Associate at CIFOR and a Professor of Human Development and Biodiversity at Manchester Metropolitan University in the United Kingdom.

When forests are destroyed, the animals that live in them are displaced. The Ebola virus is transmitted from wild animals, such as fruit bats or apes.

The forests should not be protected for the sake conservation alone but also for health reasons, according to Lutwama, a Virologist at the Uganda Virus Institute. “People should keep the forests,” he said.