In early May, a strange disease began to affect people in the southern Indian state of Kerala, killing 17 people. The cause was an almost unknown virus called Nipah virus. Even though the virus has been contained, for the moment, WHO is concerned about the Nipah virus which might indeed become the Disease X.
Many of the disease experts consider Nipah to be the most frightening and worrying ’emerging’ virus of the last decades, at least. It is no coincidence that WHO has it as one of the eight priority viruses for which a vaccine should be developed.
According to The New York Times, Nipah infection causes flu symptoms, such as fever, body aches, and vomiting, which often progress to acute respiratory syndrome and encephalitis, or brain inflammation.
Some survivors show persistent neurological effects, including personality changes.
WHO is concerned that Nipah virus might become the Disease X
The Nipah virus outbreak in Kerala has caused concern because the Nipah virus had never been seen in that region, as the last known outbreak being in Bangladesh, at 2,600 kilometers away.
But Nipah, like Ebola, usually spreads through body fluids but, in some cases, according to WHO, the virus has spread through the air. If the Nipah evolves into an airborne virus, it could fast become a global pandemic.
The good news is that after the Ebola outbreak in 2014, the global health community has made efforts to catalog and advance research into treatments for the most worrisome viruses, including Nipah.
For example, in Australia, a state-of-the-art treatment, a specific antiviral antibody, was manufactured and it could be sent to Kerala.
Viruses like this Nipah virus have made the director of the World Health Organization to warn that the world is at risk of a possible pandemic, mainly because the authorities tend to neglect the health sector, especially in poor countries. On the other hand, Nipah virus is almost unknown and has no cure, therefore, in case it turns into a global pandemic, it would become the Disease X WHO listed as a possibly disastrous disease caused by an unknown pathogen.