What Is Nipah Virus? World Health Organization Ranks It Alongside the Ebola & Zika Virus
Often, such viral agents have only been recently discovered and emerged as an outbreak in a particular region of the world. This is the case for the Nipah virus, which has claimed the lives of at least nine people in India this year. Nipah virus was first discovered in Malaysia in the late 1990s when an outbreak of the virus struck approximately 265 people. The impact of these actions was moderate as it was determined that NiV could not only transmit from pigs to humans, but also that person-to-person transmission was possible. Despite the absence of any medical treatments for the disease, people can survive infection with NiV, though they are often left with neurological disorders marked by aberrations in personality and recurrent seizures.
The number of cases had advanced to 18 of which 16 of the patients had died due to NiV. The two remaining NiV-infected individuals were responding well to treatment with Ribavirin, a potent anti-viral drug. In that instance, the lethality of the virus was less than what was anticipated. In light of the recent NiV outbreak, a virus that the WHO ranks in its top priorities alongside Ebola virus and Zika virus, a global health consortium called the Coalition for Epidemic Preparedness Innovations awarded 25 million dollars to biotech companies. In the United States that have been leading the charge to develop a NiV vaccine.
There are at least two different experimental NiV vaccines that have shown protective results when tested in animal models. One vaccine candidate involves a recombinant vesicular stomatitis virus decorated with the immunogenic glycoprotein of NiV. VSV is a well-studied virus that has been attenuated in the laboratory setting and has been investigated for its capacity to be genetically altered to have its surface coated with immune system stimulating molecules from a variety of different viruses. The VSV-NiV vaccine offered protection from NiV infection.
Researchers Boar into the Ecology and Health of Wild Pigs
The Eurasian wild boar is native to Europe and Asia; however their range has vastly expanded across the world through human translocation. Wild boars cause significant widespread damage to native ecosystems and to crops through their rooting and digging. Introduced to Canada from Europe in the late 1980s through the 1990s, wild boar were to be raised as meat for national and international consumption. Cross-breeding of wild boar with domestic swine was encouraged in order to increase animal size, and to produce much larger litters. Escaped or released animals from many farms across Canada established free-ranging populations that began to reproduce in the wild.
These cross-bred wild animals, generally called ‘wild pigs’ have since established populations in British Columbia, Alberta, Saskatchewan, Manitoba, Ontario, and Quebec. The ‘Canadian Wild Pig Project’ led by Dr. Ryan Brook has been working to understand the ecology of wild pigs in Canada for five years. Over the past three years, Dr. Brook and his collaborators have been studying the movements, home ranges, habitat selection, and interactions with domestic hog farms of wild pigs in Saskatchewan by tracking individuals using GPS collars.
Ruth Kost, a Ph.D. student on the project has been collecting observations of wild pigs across Canada to develop the first baseline map of their distribution in Canada. Wild pigs are also being tested for disease in collaboration with Dr. Trent Bollinger and Marnie Zimmer of the Canadian Wildlife Health Cooperative. Dr.
Bollinger, Marnie, and a 4th year veterinary student will be heading to Melfort and Moose Mountain area to assist with a wild pig cull. Click this link for the supplemental CWHC info sheet on wild pigs: The Wild Boar(Photos provided by Dr. Ryan Brook).
Avian Flu Diary: CDC Infographic On The Spread Of Flu Between Pigs And People
While we await further word on the subtype and number of cases in two suspected transmission events linked to recent county fairs, the CDC has released a new 2-page PDF infographic on how swine variant viruses are transmitted to humans. Transmission of flu viruses between pigs and people is a two way street. People can, and often do, infect pigs with human seasonal virus, and this has led to reassortments of human and swine flu viruses, resulting in the creation of new variants. While most people who contract swine variant influenza will experience only mild to moderate illness, and these viruses haven’t developed the ability to spread in an efficient and sustained manner in the community, the CDC takes these outbreaks very seriously. All influenza viruses have the capacity to change and it’s possible that variant viruses may change such that they infect people easily and spread easily from person-to-person.
CDC Recommendations For People At High Risk:If you are at high risk of serious flu complications and are going to a fair where pigs will be present, avoid pigs and swine barns at the fair. This includes children younger than 5 years, people 65 years and older, pregnant women, and people with certain long-term health conditions. If you are not at high risk, take these precautions:Don’t take food or drink into pig areas; don’t eat, drink or put anything in your mouth in pig areas. Don’t take toys, pacifiers, cups, baby bottles, strollers, or similar items into pig areas. Wash your hands often with soap and running water before and after exposure to pigs.
Take protective measures if you must come in contact with pigs that are known or suspected to be sick. To further reduce the risk of infection, minimize contact with pigs in the pig barn and arenas.