Scientists have even warned that the next pandemic is the ‘Big One’
With over 75 viruses, including mumps, measles and respiratory tract infections, the paramyxovirus family was added to the list of the National Institute of Allergy and Infectious Diseases’ pandemic pathogens to watch in October.
One such viruses, the Nipah virus, can infect cells with receptors that regulate what gets in or out of cells that line the central nervous system and vital organs.
The brain-swelling virus has a far higher mortality rate than Covid-19 – and governments say thet may not be prepared to manage the threat.
The Mail Online reports: This variant has a fatality rate of up to 75 percent compared to Covid’s, which is well under one percent.
Scientists note that unlike the flu and Covid-19 are ‘speedy shape-shifters,’ paramyxoviruses appear not to mutate as they spread, but they have become ‘very good at transmission among humans.’
‘Just imagine if a paramyxovirus emerged that was as contagious as measles and as deadly as Nipah,’ Michael Norris, Ph.D., assistant professor at the University of Toronto, said in a statement.
It is not hard to picture that scenario: the 2011 film Contagion was based on this exact kind of imagined paramyxovirus.
Starring Matt Damon, Gwyneth Paltrow and Kate Winslet, a woman returns home from a business trip in Hong Kong and brings back a lethal microbe that triggered a global pandemic – the disease was the Nipah virus.
‘Influenza has been sequenced to death,’ Benhur Lee, a virologist at Mount Sinai’s Icahn School of Medicine, told The Atlantic.
Lee continued to explain that this is not the case for paramyxoviruses because most people infected with one of the more than 75 viruses do not survive, making it nearly impossible to develop treatments and vaccines.
The first discovered in the family, called Rinderpest, was identified in 1902.
Rinderpest, or cattle plague, is a contagious viral disease affecting cloven-hoofed animals.
It was the second ever disease to be entirely eradicated in 2011, following human disease smallpox in 1980.
Even though scientists have known about paramyxoviruses for more than one century, they have yet to understand how the viruses move into new species and mutations taken on to infect humans.
For example, mumps were long believed only to infect humans and select primates, but cases were found among bats.
There is also mystery about how paramyxoviruses can cause minor infections in one host but kill another.