Nipah virus bio-terror threat: Pathogen risks being weaponised by ‘bad actors’ – warning

Nipah virus kills over a dozen people in Kerala, India

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The virus is one of the world’s most lethal pathogens and has a fatality rate of 75 percent. Experts suggest there is a bioterrorism risk from Nipah virus, because like the bubonic plague, it could be contained, then transported, and released in urban areas. Speaking to Express.co.uk American epidemiologist Emily Gurley said that Nipah virus “could be used by bad actors” in a bio-terror attack.

Doctor Gurley of Johns Hopkins Bloomberg School of Public Health added: “There are ways to guard against this, including investing in research infrastructure in places where Nipah occurs to ensure the safe and secure handling of specimens.

“Investments in surveillance and public health capacity is also an excellent investment again, to ensure that no matter what happens, we find things quickly and are nimble in our response.”

According to the World Health Organisation (WHO), the Nipah virus causes a range of illnesses from asymptomatic infection to acute respiratory illness.

The virus becomes fatal when it causes encephalitis or swelling of the brain.

The only treatment currently is supportive care.

The virus has yet to mutate to become as contagious as Covid-19.

Speaking to Express.co.uk Doctor John Klena and Doctor Shannon Whitmer from the US Centre for Disease Control in Atlanta said: “Human-to-human transmission has been observed, but at this time, it appears to be an inefficient process.

The scientists from the US CDC said that because of “the high fatality rate and ability to cause public fear, the threat of use of Nipah virus as a weapon and ways to mitigate this threat needs to be addressed”.

Doctor Klena and Doctor Whitmer said that “since its discovery 27 years ago in 1994 in Malaysia, there have been several known outbreaks of Nipah virus in Asia”.

The scientist team added that there have been more “recent cases in Bangladesh and India”.

They added: “Every year, a few cases of Nipah are detected in Bangladesh, and occasionally these are associated with household clusters.

“The reservoir of the virus, Pteropus fruit bats, have a wide distribution in Asia, but there are not human cases present in every country visited by these bats.”

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The scientists from the Atlanta CDC said that “based on these observations, the risk of pandemic spread of Nipah virus is low”.

The deadly Nipah virus has been listed in the “C” category of possible bioterrorism agents.

Category C of the US Bioterrorism Agents List contains emerging deadly pathogens that could cause mass panic and illness in the future because of their “potential for high morbidity and mortality rates and major health impact”.

Pathogens such as the Nipah virus are included on the list because of their “ease of production and dissemination”.

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