Nipah virus ticking time bomb: Deafening coughs from pig farm sparks pandemic alert

Nipah virus: Doctor explains the signs and symptoms

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Author and science journalist Dr David Quammen warned animal-to-human infections from zoonotic viruses such as Nipah was “happening with increasing frequency”. He used the example of a pig farm in northern Malaysia, where infected bats had spread the disease to pigs – and then their farmers. A deafening chorus of coughing could be heard in the surrounding area, he said, sparking fears of a mass outbreak.

Speaking at the Centre for Climate Change and Sustainability at the University of Ashoka, he said this was because of an expansion of the human population into the wilder regions of the earth.

Remote regions of biodiversity are now seeing increased activity from humans in search of more agricultural land or hunting prey.

Dr Quammen warned this unprecedented “demand on the natural world” could result in a higher chance of a Nipah virus breakout.

He said Nipah virus was one of the top candidates for a new pandemic, with a potentially devastating impact on the world’s human population.

This is because, unlike Covid19, the Nipah virus has a fatality rate of up to 75 percent.

It causes excruciatingly painful symptoms brought on by brain swelling due to the effects of encephalitis.

Encephalitis is a sudden inflammation of the brain brought on by a viral infection.

The disease requires urgent care, although there is no medication yet developed to counter its devastating impact on the body.

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In his seminar on the disease, Dr Quammen said it most likely made the jump from animals to humans in northern Malaysia.

The virus has its reservoir in forest-dwelling fruit bats.

However, the forests were cleared to make way for agriculture and large pig farms, where “thousands of pigs were kept together in corals”.

The fruit bats then began needed to travel further to find food, and they began to eat the fruit from trees planted next to the industrial pig farms.

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The bats then dropped the core of the fruit into the vast piggeries which were then consumed by the pigs thus leading to their infection.

Dr Quammen said: “The pigs then began becoming infected by the fruit dropped by the bats, that then went on to infect the pig farmers.”

Residents living near the pig farms talked of the “chorus of coughing” heard from many miles away, as thousands of pigs succumbed to the dreadful disease.

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