What is Nipah Virus? Deadly Disease Spreading Via Fruit Bats, Date Palm Sap

More than 20 people in India are showing symptoms of the deadly Nipah virus infection, or NiV, according to BBC News. In addition to those showing symptoms, nine have died from the virus in the Kerala region.

The Union Minister of Health and Family Welfare in India, Jagat Prakash Nadda, ordered the Director of the National Center for Disease Control to travel to the location where the virus has been detected. There, the director will begin protocol for dealing with the virus.

The Nipah virus can cause respiratory illness when a person first starts to exhibit symptoms—but the most severe symptoms include the development of encephalitis, inflammation of the brain tissue, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.

Other symptoms, including fever, headache and disorientation, can appear anywhere from five days to two weeks after exposure, and can last anywhere from a few days to two weeks. In some instances, patients may fall into a coma within a day to two days of developing symptoms, according to the CDC.

The disease is deadly and of the people who are hospitalized for it, 40 percent of them died.

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A map from the Center for Disease Control shows the distribution of the Nipah Virus as of 2014. Centers for Disease Control

The hosts of the Nipah virus are fruit bats, according to the World Health Organization. It was first discovered in 1998 when there was an outbreak in Malaysia. The virus can make the jump from animals to humans when humans consume contaminated food to which the bats have transferred the virus. An outbreak in 2004 was caused after bats transferred the disease to date palm sap that humans ate, according to the WHO.

Outbreaks are not completely uncommon in certain parts of the world. Bangladesh has them "almost annually," while they have happened "several times," in India. In those two countries, the disease is passed between humans "regularly," according to the CDC, which states that it is common to see it passed between family members or from a sick person to a caregiver.

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A flying-fox flies above the Ram bagh garden in Amritsar on February 18, 2009. The flying fox bat is also called a fruit bat, the same type of bat that helps transfer the deadly Nipah virus. Narinder Nanu/Getty Images