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  • Walter Muller

Nipah virus & the Zoonotic nature of the coronavirus

When the virus broke out in China, early on the authorities were well aware that it was an airborne virus and that it was zoonotic in nature, easily hopping from animal to human host.

So when the authorities put out a bounty of 50 Yuan to anyone who brought in a "stray animal" dead or alive, locals responded happily. And when the authorities made it law that anyone caught harboring a live animal in their household would immediately go to jail for risking public health, the people responded. Although most people turned in their domesticated animals, those that didn't were turned in by neighbors. And their animals were slaughtered and their owners sent to prison labor camps. (Here's a link to a Feb 2020 article with video and photos documenting the slaughter of dogs, etc: )

But the zoonotic nature of the virus didn't end there. Whole farms of pigs, ducks, chickens and other livestock were burned alive, buried alive or buried while they were being torched with flame throwers.

Once the authorities knew Pandora's box was opened, they worked as hard as they could to try and contain the virus.

When it became clear that wiping out all wild and domestic animal populations wasn't stopping transmission of the virus, whole cities were put under "war orders" - which is a fancy way of saying a very strict military quarantine. No movement anywhere. Not to buy food or seek medical attention for the dying. Nothing.

Whole apartment complexes had their main doors & entry gates welded shut - with thousands of people trapped inside; and the only way out was to jump. Those that did manage to survive the fall, were shot immediately by the police or removed by the military and never seen alive again.

In quarantined complexes, this is where officials studied transmission of the virus. In these multi-story Petri dishes, authorities observed how a single infected apartment unit could transmit the virus through bathroom sewage pipes, air vents and other mediums. Drones were employed to study conditions remotely. And if this sounds like a dystopian sci-fi movie to you, well I saw it myself. And I can tell you, it was far worse than any sci-fi horror movie I've ever seen in my life.

When food ran out, the hungry cries from the apartment complexes turned to screams. And when authorities learned of residents throwing themselves out of high windows - driven to insanity from starvation - the police and the fire brigade were dispatched to deal with the situation – but not to aid the residents. The police were there to shoot those who successfully survived the jump from the high rise apartment buildings - and the fire department was there to supervise the burning of the apartment complex and the any fallen bodies – to make sure that outside contamination from the virus was minimal. A lot of these buildings were not much more then wood. And they went up like Roman candles on the 4th of July. Those that were more modern construction - like concrete - were cordoned off by either the military or police and they were guarded until everyone in the buildings were dead from disease and/or starvation. At which point the mobile incinerators came in to deal with the dead.

Since then, thankfully the memories of burning buildings have muted some, although the screams of those starving families, being burned alive still ring loudly at night. Sometimes I wake up from nightmares of it. It's just one of those things you can't forget.

But the reasons the authorities acted with such extreme measures, was the original strain of the virus was potent - and that was because it contained Nipah Virus. Nipah - a virus - when pure – which has a 50% plus mortality rate on a bad day.

Unsurprisingly, Nipah virus displays many of the characteristics of coronavirus: it's a zoonotic illness that is transmitted from animals to people and can also be transmitted from person-to-person. It causes a range of illnesses from asymptomatic infection to acute respiratory illness. The virus can also cause severe illness in a wide range of animals.

But after a while, the risk of Nipah was reduced (that's a question to answer on another post), and quarantine and elimination measures used later were less extreme. But now we see Nipah rear its ugly head again – in another country. But coincidentally, its occurring where this beastly, modified coronavirus has also heavily ravaged a population. Which now appears to have a renewed Nipah problem.

This raises certain questions:

Could the Nipah virus have evolved significantly enough from the coronavirus strain, to reform a potent Nipah strain in India?

Could there be a possibility that a locally acquired Nipah strain will or has recombined with the coronavirus-nipah blend?

Could it happen?

Yes, it could.

Will it happen?

I certainly hope not.

But one thing is certain - when you open Pandora's box, the strangest things do wander out.

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