The risk of Nipah virus (NiV) in Pakistan is deemed low by the National Institute of Health (NIH). However, the NIH is urging vigilance at entry points across the country.
Nipah virus, initially identified during a 1999 outbreak among Malaysian pig farmers, can be transmitted to humans through animals like pigs and bats, as well as contaminated food. It can also spread directly from human to human, with fruit bats of the Pteropodidae family serving as its natural host.
While there is currently no available treatment or vaccine for NiV in either humans or animals, supportive care remains the primary treatment for those infected.
Recent months have seen a resurgence of NiV cases in India’s Kerala region, prompting school closures and extensive testing.
An advisory from the NIH on October 7 reported six NiV cases in India’s Kerala state in September, resulting in two fatalities. The advisory noted that various countries, including Bangladesh, Malaysia, the Philippines, Singapore, and India, have confirmed cases of Nipah virus in humans, underscoring its status as a public health concern.
While the advisory emphasized the low overall risk of NiV occurrence in Pakistan, it highlighted factors such as the presence of Pteropus giganteus bats, international travel, and the nation’s lengthy border with India, where NiV outbreaks have been documented.
The NIH recommended precautionary measures for Pakistani authorities to prevent NiV’s emergence, including raising awareness about risk factors, active case finding, contact tracing, and isolation. Community awareness regarding safe fruit consumption and proper washing was also stressed.
Healthcare professionals were advised to be vigilant, obtain travel histories from patients, practice infection control precautions, and share suspected NiV case samples with the NIH.
The advisory concluded by underlining the importance of vigilance and prompt reporting of suspected NiV cases or events by federal and provincial/regional health departments, entry points, hospitals, clinicians, laboratory personnel, and livestock and dairy departments, as per WHO case definitions. The NIH reaffirmed its close monitoring of the situation.