At least nine people have reportedly died and 25 more have been infected in an outbreak of the Nipah virus in India.
Nipah is a deadly virus that can be transmitted between people. It has killed between 40% and 75% of infected people in past outbreaks.
Fruit bats are the natural host of the disease, and there is no cure or vaccine.
At least nine people in southern India have died in cases linked to an outbreak of the rare and extremely deadly Nipah virus, according to a report by the BBC.
Nipah is considered a newly emerging deadly virus — scientists only found out that it could jump from bats to other species, including humans, within the past 20 years. The disease is currently incurable and can be transmitted from person to person. It has killed between 40% and 75% of infected people in most outbreaks.
These statistics indicate that Nipah has the potential to cause a deadly pandemic, which is why the World Health Organization lists Nipah as an urgent research priority, alongside diseases like Ebola and SARS.
Of the nine people who have died so far in the city of Kozhikode in Kerala, three cases of Nipah have been confirmed. Results from the other six are still being tested, and at least 25 more people have been hospitalized.
A little-known virus
Nipah first appeared in Malaysia in 1998, when 265 people became infected with a strange illness that caused encephalitis, or brain inflammation after they came into contact with pigs or sick people. In that outbreak, 105 people died, a fatality rate of 40%.
Since then, there have been a number of smaller outbreaks in India and Bangladesh, with about 280 infections and 211 deaths — an average fatality rate of 75%.
When the first infections jumped from pigs to humans, authorities killed more than a million pigs to try to stop the spread of the disease. Since then, however, researchers have identified several fruit bat species as the natural hosts of the virus. In some cases, humans have been infected after drinking sap from date palms that bats may have contaminated.