Skip to main content

Key Information About Nipah Virus Infection

Srikanth is passionate about helping people improve their quality of life.

Nipah virus disease is a recently discovered disease characterized by fever, constitutional symptoms and encephalitis.

The infection killed more than 100 people when it first appeared in a Malaysian village known as Sungai Nipah (hence the name) in 1998.

World Health Organization has listed the Nipah virus as the most likely virus to cause the next pandemic.

Henipavirus Structure

Wikimedia Commons

Wikimedia Commons


Nipah virus disease is caused by Nipah virus (NiV), which is a member of the family Paramyxoviridae, genus Henipavirus. It is a deadly, brain-damaging virus.

Paramyxoviruses have the potential to trigger a devastating pandemic.

The Nipah outbreak in Malaysia alerted the global public health community to the severe pathogenic potential and widespread distribution of these unique paramyxoviruses.

Although not completely understood, the molecular mechanism of Nipah virus transmission is hypothesized to be by fomites.

This paramyxovirus can be transmitted to humans from animals (like bats or pigs), or contaminated foods.

Consumption of contaminated fruits is said to be a primary reason for the spread of the disease.

Usually fruit bats feed on fruits and leave behind their urine or saliva on them. The fruits half eaten by the bats are collected by locals. In many instances, these fruits are eaten as such without giving any importance on cleaning it. When the body fluids of the contaminated bats come in contact with the human system, it causes the infection.

Paramyxovirus can also be transmitted directly from human-to-human.

The Nipah fever outbreak, which claimed 21 lives in Kerala in the year 2018 may have emanated from a bat species known as the Indian flying fox.

In a study in 2019, published in PLOS Neglected Tropical Diseases, scientists used machine learning to identify bat species with the potential to host Nipah virus, with a focus on India -- the site of a 2018 outbreak. Four new bat species were flagged as surveillance priorities.

In some parts of the world, human cases have been linked to drinking unpasteurized date palm sap (juice).

Wikimedia Commons

Wikimedia Commons


The incubation period of this disease is 5 to 14 days. Clinical presentations of this infection in humans varies from asymptomatic infection to fever, headache for 3 to 14 days followed by drowsiness, respiratory illness, disorientation and mental confusion. In severe cases these symptoms can progress to coma within 1 or 2 days.


Inflammation of the brain and seizures are known complications of this disease.

Scroll to Continue


The prognosis is fair to poor. Fatality rate ranges from 40 to 90 percent, depending upon the local capabilities for surveillance and clinical management.

"Nipah virus is not as contagious [as measles], but it is incredibly lethal, with between 40 percent and 90 percent of infections causing death," said Michael Norris, Ph.D., a former postdoctoral associate at La Jolla Institute for Immunology (LJI) and current assistant professor at the University of Toronto.

Survivors may have residual neurological problems (like seizures) and/or personality changes.

Some survivors who recover may subsequently relapse or develop delayed onset encephalitis.


A number of in-house diagnostic assays for NiV using serological and nucleic acid amplification techniques have been developed for NiV and are used in laboratory settings, including some early multiplex panels for differentiation of NiV infection from other febrile diseases.


There is no cure for the Nipah virus. Instead, people who are infected are treated with supportive care, which includes making sure the person stays hydrated, and treating any nausea or vomiting.

Doctors use Ribavirin (a medicine used to treat viral infection of the liver or hepatitis C) to treat this disease.


In March 2022, a vaccine that could protect against the deadly Nipah virus in just three days was developed by scientists at the Oxford University. It was tested on monkeys.

In July 2022, the National Institute of Allergy and Infectious Diseases (NIAID), part of the National Institutes of Health, launched an early-stage clinical trial evaluating an investigational vaccine to prevent infection with Nipah virus.

Avoid exposure to bats and sick pigs. Do not drink raw date palm sap.

Stay away from locations where bats are roosting. Do not to eat fruits found on the ground.

"Data is key to the success of disease surveillance programs," said Dr Vikram Venkateswaran, Member-Healthcare Working Group, IET Future Tech Panel.


A message claiming that homeo medicine Gelsemium 200 cures Nipah virus infection is doing the rounds in social media. This is a fake message.



  • Nipah first appeared in Sungai Nipah in 1998.
  • Nipah virus is a member of the family Paramyxoviridae, genus Henipavirus.
  • Fruit bats are the main carriers of this virus.
  • Incubation period of Nipah virus infection is 5 to 14 days.
  • Inflammation of the brain is a complication of this condition.
  • Gelsemium 200 does not cure Nipah virus disease.


For each question, choose the best answer. The answer key is below.

  1. Nipah virus disease is characterized by ______
    • fever
    • constitutional symptoms
    • encephalitis
    • all the above
  2. The case fatality rate is estimated at ________
    • 10 to 45 percent
    • 30 to 65 percent
    • 40 to 75 percent
    • 20 to 55 percent
  3. Nipah outbreak in Malaysia in 1998 alerted the global public health community to the severe pathogenic potential of thes
    • True
    • False
  4. Which is the main carrier of Nipah virus?
    • Crow
    • Fruit bat
    • Lizard
    • Rabbit
  5. What is the incubation period of Nipah virus disease?
    • 8 to 17 days
    • 7 to 16 days
    • 6 to 15 days
    • 5 to 14 days

Answer Key

  1. all the above
  2. 40 to 75 percent
  3. True
  4. Fruit bat
  5. 5 to 14 days

This content is accurate and true to the best of the author’s knowledge and does not substitute for diagnosis, prognosis, treatment, prescription, and/or dietary advice from a licensed health professional. Drugs, supplements, and natural remedies may have dangerous side effects. If pregnant or nursing, consult with a qualified provider on an individual basis. Seek immediate help if you are experiencing a medical emergency.

© 2019 Srikanth R

Related Articles