IAMAT |International Association of Medical Assistance to Travellers| IAMAT |International Association of Medical Assistance to Travellers|

Nipah Virus

Photo By: Carol Scott

Nipah Virus (NiV) is a viral infection caused by the Henipavirus genus belonging to the Paramyxovidae family. It is a zoonosis – an animal disease that can spread to humans – transmitted by infected fruit bats (Pteropus).

Bats can transmit the virus through infected air droplets, saliva, and excrement. Animals can become infected by eating food contaminated by bats and can transmit the virus to other animals, including humans. Human cases have occurred after contact with respiratory secretions and tissues from NiV-infected pigs. Transmission can also occur by drinking raw date palm sap contaminated with infected bat excretions.

Person to person transmission of NiV occurs when coming into contact with the blood and bodily secretions of infected persons or cadavers without proper infection control gear (masks, gloves, and gowns) or coming in direct contact with unsterilized medical instruments, infected blood products and organs.


Risk of Nipah Virus is present in South East Asia and Madagascar. Cave explorers and mining workers are at higher risk of exposure. Persons working in healthcare settings are also at greater risk, especially if working in unhygienic conditions and adequate protective equipment is not available.


In some cases, the infection is asymptomatic – persons do not exhibit symptoms. Those with symptoms usually become ill 4 to 14 days after exposure. Flu-like symptoms of fever, sore throat, vomiting, headaches, and muscle pain occur for 3 to 14 days and are followed by neurological symptoms such as drowsiness, confusion, and disorientation. In severe cases, the infection can cause seizures and the brain to swell, leading to a coma within 24 to 48 hours. In approximately 20% of patients that recover, neurological symptoms can persist such as seizures or changed personality. Currently, supportive care of symptoms is the only way to treat the infection.


Travellers going to affected areas should refrain from visiting households or healthcare settings that have been affected by a Nipah Virus outbreak. Those who care for patients with suspected or confirmed NiV cases should wear protective gowns, gloves, masks, as well as a face shield.

There is currently no preventive medication or vaccine against Nipah Virus. 

Information last updated: February 04, 2020