Pandemic Prevention

Monitoring the Deadly Nipah Virus

Program Info

Nipah virus first emerged in Malaysia in 1998, infecting 265 people and resulting in more than 100 deaths in a single outbreak. This lethal virus was first identified in pigs and pig farmers. It spread quickly as infected pigs were bought and sold, eventually infecting abattoir workers in Singapore. The Malaysian government was forced to stop pig exports and culled almost half of its pig population, costing the industry millions of dollars.  This severe action halted the spread of this newly discovered disease but many questions remained to its origins and pathways.

Joint investigations suggest a complex ecology for Nipah virus and researchers identified fruit bats as the wildlife reservoir of the virus.  In 2001, an outbreak of Nipah-like virus erupted in Bangladesh resulting in many human fatalities.  Bangladesh has experienced outbreaks every year since then and EcoHealth Alliance scientists fear the virus has pandemic potential since it is easily transmissible among wildlife, people and livestock.  The most recent outbreak that occurred in Bangladesh in 2004 had a case fatality rate of nearly 80 percent – a staggering figure.

Our work, in cooperation with local and international partners, involves catching and testing fruit bats, identifying exposure risk to humans, using mathematical models to understand the dynamics of transmission, and predicting how likely it is to become pandemic. EcoHealth Alliance’s goal is to find methods to prevent transmission while continuing to work on ways to protect fruit bats in their natural habitat.

Experts

Jim Desmond

Jim Desmond

Consultant, Wildlife Conservation & Emerging Disease
DVM, MS, Comparative Biomedical Sciences, cert. International Veterinary Medicine

Peter Daszak

Peter Daszak

President & Disease Ecologist
PhD, Parasitology

Jonathan H. Epstein

Jonathan H. Epstein

Associate Vice President of Conservation Medicine
DVM, MPH, cert. International Veterinary Medicine

Kevin J. Olival

Kevin J. Olival

Associate Vice President
MA, Conservation Biology
PhD, Ecology and Evolutionary Biology

Tom Hughes

Tom Hughes

Malaysian Project Coordinator
PREDICT Program Coordinator
BS, Development Studies and Natural Resources

Ariful Islam

Ariful Islam

Field Veterinarian

DVM,
MS, Pharmacology
MPH, Epidemiology

Alice Latinne

Alice Latinne

Research Scientist
M.Sc., Animal Biology
Ph.D., Molecular Biology

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