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Oxford Begins First Human Trials Of Nipah Virus Vaccine ChAdOx1, Risk Factors Of This Deadly Infection

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In another breakthrough achievement in preventive medicine, scientists at Oxford University have started the first human trials of a vaccine against Nipah Virus (NiV). Nipah Virus (NiV) can cause a deadly infectious disease that has been claimed to be deadlier than even COVID-19 by many prominent health stalwarts, including Dr Rajeev Bahl, Director General (DG), Indian Council Of Medical Research (ICMR). 

Recently, Indian health authorities had expressed interest in developing such a vaccine. However, challenges like the low rate of virus spread stood in the way. That is why this progress in the trials of the ChAdOx1 NipahB vaccine, consisting of 51 people between the ages of 18 and 55 led by the Oxford Vaccine Group is being highly appreciated.

Oxford Begins First Human Trials Of Nipah Virus Vaccine ChAdOx1, Risk Factors Of This Deadly Infection

Nipah Virus Risk Factors

According to the Centres for Disease Control and Prevention, 40-70% of NiV cases stand at risk of dying. This further highlights the need for a vaccine against this virus. However, till the vaccine hits the market, here is a list of people who are at high risk of developing a severe illness due to a NiV infection.

Occupational Exposure

Individuals who work closely with animals, especially bats, are at a higher risk of contracting Nipah Virus. Bats are considered natural hosts for the virus, and exposure can occur through direct contact with their saliva, urine, or droppings. Farmers, veterinarians, and researchers studying bats are examples of those with increased occupational exposure.

Close Contact with Infected Individuals

Human-to-human transmission of Nipah Virus has been documented, particularly in the context of close contact with infected patients. Healthcare workers and family members caring for Nipah Virus patients are at elevated risk due to the potential for direct exposure to respiratory secretions and bodily fluids.

Consumption of Infected Fruits or Products

In some cases, Nipah Virus transmission has been linked to the consumption of fruits contaminated by bat saliva or urine. People who consume raw date palm sap, which can be contaminated during collection, are at an increased risk. Communities relying on such products for sustenance should exercise caution.

Living in Endemic Regions

Geographical location plays a role in Nipah Virus exposure. Certain regions, particularly in South and Southeast Asia, have experienced Nipah outbreaks. People residing in or travelling to these areas should be vigilant and follow recommended precautions.

Also Read: Nipah Virus Makes A Comeback In India, Here’s What You Should Know About This Virus

Oxford Begins First Human Trials Of Nipah Virus Vaccine ChAdOx1, Risk Factors Of This Deadly Infection

Immune-Compromised Individuals

People with weakened immune systems, such as those with HIV/AIDS or undergoing immunosuppressive treatments, may be more susceptible to Nipah Virus infection. Vigilant monitoring and precautions are essential for this demographic.

Lack of Awareness and Education

Lack of awareness about the virus and preventive measures can contribute to increased risk. Educating communities, especially in high-risk regions, about Nipah Virus transmission, symptoms, and preventive measures is crucial for minimising the spread of the virus.

Preventing Nipah Virus

“Nipah virus was first identified in 1998, and yet 25 years on the global health community still has no approved vaccines or treatments for this devastating disease. This vaccine trial is an important milestone in identifying a solution that could prevent local outbreaks from occurring, while also helping the world prepare for a future global pandemic,” commented the trial’s Principal Investigator, Brian Angus, University of Oxford’s Nuffield Department of Medicine.

However, till the vaccine is developed, follow these preventive measures:

  • Personal Protective Equipment (PPE): Individuals at risk, particularly healthcare workers, should use appropriate PPE to minimise direct contact with potentially infected bodily fluids.
  • Public Health Awareness Campaigns: Governments and health organisations should conduct awareness campaigns to educate communities about NiV, its transmission, and preventive measures.
  • Proper Food Handling Practices: Emphasising proper food handling and hygiene practices, especially in regions where consumption of date palm sap is common, can reduce the risk of contamination.
  • Surveillance and Early Detection: Establishing surveillance systems for early detection of Nipah outbreaks can facilitate prompt response and containment efforts.

While NiV infection is largely controlled by geographical boundaries, a heightened awareness about this disease, especially its preventive measures is mandatory. This can help those living in these endemic-prone regions, and those who wish to travel to such areas.

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