At a time when the world is still confused as it is fighting the Corona epidemic that has infected more than 103 million people and killed more than 2.2 million, concerns were raised recently about the possibility of an outbreak of a deadly virus known as “Nipah” more dangerous than Corona.
According to an article by the World Health Organization in 2018, “Nipah” is a zoonotic virus, that is transmitted from animals such as bats or pigs to humans, and it can also be transmitted through contaminated food or directly between people. Human infections range from asymptomatic infection to acute respiratory infection (mild and severe) and fatal encephalitis. The virus can also cause serious illness in animals such as pigs.
The Nipah virus was first recognized in 1999 during an outbreak among pig farmers in Malaysia. No new outbreaks have been reported in Malaysia since 1999. It was also identified in Bangladesh in 2001, and outbreaks have occurred nearly yearly in that country since then. In addition, the disease has been identified periodically in eastern India.
Other areas may be at risk of infection, as evidence of the virus has been found in the natural reservoirs of bats known as the flying fox or the giant fruit eater. With the scientific name Pteropus, along with a number of other bat species in several countries, including Cambodia, Ghana, Indonesia, Madagascar, the Philippines, and Thailand.
According to WHO, fruit bats are from the family Pteropodidae – especially the species belonging to Pteropus. – The natural host of Nipah virus.
The first outbreak and subsequent outbreaks
During the first recognized outbreak in Malaysia, which also infected Singapore, most human infections were caused by Direct contact with sick pigs or their contaminated tissues. Transmission is believed to have occurred through unprotected exposure to pig secretions, or unprotected contact with the tissues of a sick animal.
In subsequent outbreaks in Bangladesh and India, consumption of fruit or fruit products (such as raw palm juice) was Contaminated with urine or saliva from infected fruit bats is the most likely source of infection. The transmission of the Nipah virus from one person to another between family members and caregivers of infected patients has also been reported.
According to the Guardian newspaper, bats are considered Of the flying foxes class, the main carrier of the Nipah virus in nature, especially in China, Southeast Asia, New Guinea and Australia.
Bats are associated with a bad reputation for their association with the spread of viruses. According to a previous study conducted by researchers from the University of “Cambridge”, bats are considered one of the largest carriers of viruses, and humans are exposed to a high rate of infection, because they often live close to it, and they travel thousands of kilometers during their trips, which may last several months.
In addition, bats can be home to many types of viruses, most notably the “Lagos” virus and mucous viruses, and these viruses can be easily transmitted from bats to humans, according to the study.
The danger of bats
In a report on bocimi update, the head of the virology unit at the Scientific Research Laboratory of the Pasteur Institute in Cambodia, Vyasna Duong, explained that fruit bats can fly up to 100 kilometers every night in search of fruit, adding that This means that the residents of the area need to be concerned, not only about getting close to bats, but also about consuming products that may be contaminated by infected bats with the virus, one of which is Nipah.
Duong also identified a case. Another high-risk one is that bat dung has become a common fertilizer in Cambodia and Thailand. For Cambodians, the sale of dung can be Bats are a vital means of earning a living.
He indicated that there are many sites where locals encourage fruit bats, also known as flying foxes, to sit near their homes in order to collect and sell bird droppings, at a time when Many of them do not know the risks they face in doing this, saying: “60% of the people we interviewed did not know that bats transmit disease, there is still a lack of knowledge in society.”
The destruction of the bats’ habitat The Nipah Spread
The destruction of the habitat of bats led to the spread of Nipah virus infection in the past. The researchers concluded that forest fires and local droughts pushed bats out of their natural environment and forced them to turn towards fruit trees that grew in farms that raise pigs.
It was found that bats release more viruses when they are under stress, according to Duong, who said it usually allows the virus to pass from bats to pigs and beyond to breeders.
Fruit bats also tend to live in dense wooded areas with lots of fruit trees to eat, and when their habitat is destroyed, they find New solutions, such as sitting at home or on the towers, such as what happened in Angkor Wat, Cambodia.
In addition, Duong added that “the destruction of the habitat of bats and human disturbance through hunting encourages them to search for alternative places.”
“Bats have an important environmental role!”
As for whether getting rid of bats eliminates Nipah, said Tracy Goldstein, director of the One Health Institute Laboratory, Tracy Goldstein. : “Not unless we want to make things worse. Bats have a very important environmental role, as they pollinate more than 500 species of plants.”
“They also help in the sea,” Goldstein added. They are harmful to insects, and they play a very important role in controlling diseases in humans, for example, reducing malaria by eating mosquitoes. ”
To that she pointed out that“ the extermination of bats has proven harmful from the point of view of disease. And on humans, “stressing that this will make humans more vulnerable. Killing animals increases the risk. ”